ABA therapy Fort Myers
Anissa Avalos, RBT
Christie Lawrence has been a Registered Behavior Therapist at FOCUS since March 2019. She joined the ABA therapy team in after spending four years as an ESE paraprofessional in self-contained ESE and inclusion classrooms.
“I enjoy working with kids and helping them reach their highest potential,” Lawrence explained. “As a mom to son with autism, I understand the journey a lot of our parents are on. I find it rewarding to be a part of the process and facilitate a relationship with our kids and families.”
A native of Philadelphia, PA, Lawrence moved to Southwest Florida at age 12. Now with extensive personal and professional experience with children diagnosed on the autism spectrum, she particularly enjoys helping discover what motivates each child – and finding ways to use those interests to craft reinforcing activities through play to spur growth and development.
“FOCUS has such a unique, whole-child approach where meeting the needs of each individual child is such a priority,” Lawrence said. “FOCUS has created a culture where we collaborate and support patients and their families every step of the way, helping them to reach their highest potential.”
Her philosophy regarding ABA therapy is that play is the work of the child.
Lawrence is a parent board member with the American Diabetes Association through Golisano Children’s Hospital and a Type 1 diabetes advocate. She enjoys hiking with her husband and two children, and is passionate about a healthy lifestyle.
Ignacio “Iggy” Fernandez is a licensed behavior analyst (BCBA) and part of our Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy team at FOCUS Therapy Fort Myers since 2017. A native of Punta Gorda, FL, Iggy earned his Bachelor of Science in Community Health from Florida Gulf Coast University in 2017 and later his M.Ed. from Endicott College in Applied Behavior Analysis and Autism. He is bilingual in English-Spanish, and his primary focus and passion is working with children on the autism spectrum.
Quoting the insight of Dr. Stephen Shore (longtime Adelphi University professor of special education), Iggy notes that, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.
“Every kid is unique and has been gifted to learn in an individual way. Each child has a different way of learning – and I get to help them find that. I love connecting with each individual and helping him or her reach their maximum potential. … My coursework prepared me to treat children with autism, but my experience at FOCUS has prepared me to work with an even broader scope of children.”
Iggy’s first introduction to pediatric therapy was in elementary school, where he was treated by a speech-language pathologist as a child. Later, a few dust-ups in high school athletics like rugby, soccer and football required pediatric physical therapy to recover.
“I was always thankful for those therapists who challenged and pushed me,” he recalls. “When I got to college, I knew that wanted to return the care and compassion that was shared with me by those therapists!”
Working with children seemed a natural progression after growing up surrounded by younger cousins and other relatives and family friends at dinners and parties.
“I enjoy the playful nature of children, their curiosity – and I’m a pretty patient person too, so I knew I would enjoy working with children,” he said. “My favorite part about working with children is their happiness when they know they did a great job. When they say, ‘I did it!’ or ‘Ta-da!’ after they complete something they couldn’t do a few weeks or even days ago – it’s just so great to watch.”
His therapy philosophy boils down to compassion. Compassion for patients, for families and the unique situations – is the foundation of the genuine trust that’s key to delivery of high-quality ABA therapy for children in Lee County, Florida. In FOCUS, he says he’s found colleagues who have “a real love for the kids” and play-based, child-led, collaborative therapy across professional disciplines that truly works to help children with disabilities and delays overcome their biggest challenges – especially when initiated early.
“We aren’t just a group of people showing up to a job,” Iggy says. “Helping these kids excel is a daily team effort.”
“I love working at FOCUS and plan on having a long career here. We have a welcoming environment, we treat the whole child, and the high degree collaboration allows us to provide service that is unmatched in South Florida. While each therapist has the same mission, each therapist is unique in their treatment approach which actually makes the team much stronger and ultimately benefits that children.”
The well-being of the child, he says, is always Priority No. 1.
‘Before we consider anything else, we always consider what is going to benefit the patient. That’s what drives the culture of collaboration with each other and with families.”
He especially enjoys working with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Down syndrome.
“I love to have fun, be silly, and goof around,” he says. “I think that being able to build strong relationships with the kids through play is so critical to turning a session around and working on behaviors and teaching them new skills.”
Outside of FOCUS, Iggy spends a lot of time at the beach, in downtown Fort Myers, enjoying FGCU athletics, visiting family and being actively involved volunteering for youth programs at his church. He and his wife, Christie, live in South Fort Myers and recently welcomed a son, Declan.
“Having a child of my own, I now see each kid as someone else’s baby, knowing they love their child as much as I love my own,” he said. “This whole new perspective makes me even more determined to help each and every child achieve their full potential.”