THUNDER BAY -- Carolyn Mancuso’s career in behaviour analysis was sparked by a student job 10 years ago. She spent a summer at an inclusive camp in Toronto (where she is from,) working one-on-one with children with special needs. “It was super fun and really rewarding, so I started to look for a career in that field,” Mancuso explains.
She is now a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst, the only one in Thunder Bay. She came to the city to supervise the city’s Ontario Autism Program, before the Ford government announced fundamental changes to the OAP in February 2019.
Mancuso opened her own private clinic, Ignite Behaviour Consulting, in July 2019. Initially, it was a small team of two, providing service out in the community. Mancuso would go to children and families at their own homes and at day cares or wherever necessary. She had to halt these visits when the pandemic hit, but in July 2020 she opened her own clinic on Victoria Avenue East (access from Justice Avenue, behind the courthouse).
“We’re a small but mighty team of six,” Mancuso says. There is a lead therapist, four therapists and herself, and they work with children from the ages of three to 15. In addition to children, the clinic coaches parents as well.
Thunder Bay’s geography makes providing service challenging, she says. “In Toronto, there’s both private and public service providers everywhere and everyone’s close together, but here we have children in Terrace Bay or Manitouwadge and families have to travel quite far.”
Telehealth is available and during the pandemic, virtual meetings were the norm, but that approach doesn’t always work for everyone, particularly young children. COVID has made providing service particularly tricky, but Mancuso and her team strive to provide quality care that is individualized and evidence-based.
“Obviously we want to grow [the clinic], because there’s a huge need for services here, but we want to make sure we grow in a way that really supports the quality of service,” she says. “We’re providing a really important service, but we work with kids, so it’s super important that we provide that service in a way that is fun for both us and the kids, primarily the kids. We want the kids to enjoy coming!”
Mancuso had previously worked at publicly funded agencies, so starting her own clinic has been an adventure. “The focus is always the children and families, that never changes. But I’ve had to figure out how to do payroll, how to be the HR person, and the tech person, and solve all my own problems. But it’s been worth it!”