ABA Student’s Senior-Year Diagnosis Made Graduation a Steep Climb

Melissa Courtney seating and smiling next to a child who is playing with dough

With just one semester left to finish her online bachelor’s degree in applied behavior analysis, Melissa Courtney’s steps to graduation turned steeply upward when she was diagnosed with pulmonary embolism. Her doctor told her that this life-threatening blood clot was damaging her lungs and she might want to sit out for a semester.

“I had worked so hard to get to where I was,” she says. “Waiting even another semester to graduate made me upset. Along with migraines, nose bleeds, and fatigue came depression, anxiety, and anger.”

Melissa questioned whether she could keep up with her studies or if hospital stays might interrupt her classes.

Disability Services Listens

So she turned to her advisor Amy Chamberlain, student success specialist for online students. Amy, who had successfully helped Melissa transfer into the ABA program as a junior with nearly 65 credits, introduced her to Ball State’s office of disability services.

Melissa says disability services staff listened to her concerns about the upcoming semester. “They helped me determine what accommodations would be best for me based on my concerns,” she says. “Once we came up with the accommodations, they sent them to my instructors.”

Disability services requires that students meet with professors one on one to talk about leniencies needed for particular assignments.

She Explained Medical Needs

“I explained to my instructors my needs and made sure they were aware that this was not something I wanted to abuse,” says Melissa, noting that disability services checked in with her several times throughout the semester.

Melissa had transferred from a community college after earning an associate degree in human services.

“I transferred to Ball State because I knew the ABA program there was amazing, and I needed a school that was going to be affordable,” she says.

Better in all Categories

According to Melissa, compared to her previous school, Ball State was more equipped for larger classes, professors responded sooner, classes felt more organized, and she seldom waited for grades to be posted.

“I feel that I learned something from every single one of my classes, especially my ABA-related classes,” she says. She enjoyed multiple classes with Kacyn Tucker-Ramer, Ball State lecturer of applied behavior analysis.

“She made the lessons fun and always told me what I did well or where I could improve,” says Melissa. “I genuinely felt that she cared about my education.”

Advisor Amy Went Above and Beyond

Since graduating with her bachelor’s in December 2020, Melissa has worked as a registered behavioral technician (RBT) at Hopebridge Autism Therapy Center in Terre Haute, Ind.

Her goal is to earn a master’s degree at Ball State and eventually work with autistic children.

Melissa says advisor Amy was with her every step of the way, from application to graduation.

“She went above and beyond as an advisor, and I do not know what I would have done without her,” says Melissa. “She was my own personal cheerleader when I was sick. She motivated me to continue and made it a simple process to do so. I cannot thank her enough.”