Contra Costa County
Regional Clinic Director
Your Regional Clinic Director is responsible for ensuring FirstSteps program integrity. She oversees all client programs, ensures your treatment team is trained and supported, interfaces with your funding agencies, and communicates with our executive team daily to ensure your child's services run smoothly and are effective.
Please feel free to contact her at any time with questions, concerns, or to discuss your child's treatment progress.
Brynn Gordon, M.A., BCBA
From a very young age, Ms. Gordon had a passion for children and knew that her career would ultimately include working with them in some capacity. After graduating with a B.A. in Psychology from Pepperdine University, Ms. Gordon spent a few years trying on different hats, such as those of: private tutor, personal assistant, law student, and world traveler. In 2009, she got married and her travels brought her back to Ventura County where she decided to complete her M.A. degree in Psychology. While pursuing her Masters at Pepperdine University, Ms. Gordon sought a career that would fulfill her desire to be of service to children and families. She found a position working as a behavior therapist for children with ASD in Ventura County, and quickly realized she had found her calling in the field of ABA. Ms. Gordon worked her way up to an Advanced Therapist level within her first year. She provided one on one therapy, implemented and monitored individualized programs for clients in homes and schools, provided parent education, collaborated with teachers and other professionals relevant to her cases, and provided staff education to her colleagues as well as School District employees.
Upon receiving her M.A. Degree in 2011, Ms. Gordon was led to FirstSteps. She accepted a position as a Therapeutic Instructor due to the FirstSteps inspiring mission and the opportunity to grow with such a passionate agency. With her experience, Ms. Gordon accepted a position as Program Manager. After receiving her BCBA and completing her Program Management training, Ms. Gordon was promoted to Program Director in our Contra Costa County location. She is currently supervising cases, continuing to providing one on one instruction at home and school, implementing parent training, and mentoring FirstSteps instructors.
Ms. Gordon is consistently inspired by the families and children that she works with daily. She is constantly moved as she sees relationships between family and friends grow as maladaptive behaviors decrease, and social skills develop and increase. There is nothing greater than watching a child learn to have fulfilling relationships with their loved ones, peers, and of course with themselves!
Program Directors design, implement, and evaluate your child’s individualized program. Your child’s Program Director will be your primary contact at FirstSteps and is always available to answer your questions.
Michelle Benham, M.A., BCBA
Michelle Benham earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology with a Minor in Spanish, from San Diego State University in 2008. She received her Master's degree in Psychology from the Applied Behavior Analysis program at California State University, Fresno.
After graduating from SDSU, Ms. Benham moved back to the small town of Exeter, CA to pursue her career. She accepted a position with the Tulare County Office of Education Bright Future Program as a Behavior Intervention Assistant, and it changed Ms. Benham's professional goals forever. While working as an in-home 1:1 behavior assistant, she learned how to use the principals of ABA, experience webABLLS, discrete trial training, and Picture Exchange Communication.
Excited that she had discovered her passion for assisting children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Ms. Benham began the M.A. program at CSU Fresno where she studied under the supervision of Amanda Adams and Marianne Jackson. Under the guidance of Dr. Adams, Ms. Benham became a Clinical Supervisor and Assessment Coordinator for the Central California Autism Center. During her practicum at the CCAC and through her studies at CSUF, she gained knowledge of early intervention programming, teaching communication skills, intake assessment, screening for autism, and parent training.
Ms. Benham thoroughly enjoys working in the field of ABA and looks forward to continuing her professional growth. She currently plans to explore areas of organizational behavior management, verbal behavior, and developing new assessment tools.
Ms. Benham is thrilled to be a part of the FirstSteps Team and thoroughly enjoys working with our families in the Bay Area!
Katie Buchanan, M.S., BCBA
It was not until Ms. Venable graduated from California State University, Long Beach with her B.A. in Psychology that she realized her passion for working with children with autism. Upon graduation, Ms. Venable began working as a 1:1 behavior intervention instructor for an agency, and quickly worked her way up to lead instructor in less than a year. Ms. Venable’s expertise includes home- and school-based services, as well as experience with promoting generalization in the community. Her extensive experience also includes facilitating social interactions, decreasing behavioral excesses, and increasing verbal behavior.
In 2012 Ms. Venable moved to Northern California where she accepted a position at FirstSteps for Kids, Inc. Contra Costa as a Lead Instructor. After realizing that ABA was her calling, she enrolled and completed her M.S. in Psychology, and is currently completing her coursework for her BCBA through the Florida Institute of Technology.
Ms. Venable is constantly amazed and inspired by her clients and her amazing co-workers. Ms. Venable is excited to be working at FirstSteps and considers herself lucky to have found her calling!
Ameena Sweeting, M.A., BCBA
If you asked Ameena Sweeting to use a phrase to describe herself, she would use the words “kid at heart”. Throughout her life, Ameena has been told she has a gift for working with children -- most likely because she is a big kid herself.
In 2009, she earned her B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Human Development from Howard University in Washington, D.C., and continued her education at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA and received an M.A. in Applied Developmental Psychology in 2011. Throughout her coursework, she utilized her gift with children to volunteer in preschool and elementary school settings as well as to conduct research on effective methods for teaching early learners. Her love of Applied Behavior Analysis began in 2007, during a summer position where she facilitated social skills groups and conducted individualized ABA therapy sessions in the home and clinic settings for young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. During her job, Ms. Sweeting witnessed the positive impact of effective ABA, and developed a love for using her gift paired with ABA, to make a difference in the lives of children with Autism.
Following her first position as an ABA therapist, Ms. Sweeting continued her career in ABA in Virginia as a Senior Behavior Therapist at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Inc. After graduate school and her ABA Certificate Program, she returned to her home state, California. In 2013, she earned her BCBA and was promoted to a Supervisor position at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders. In her role as a Supervisor, she managed treatment plans for individuals with Autism, orchestrated parent trainings, and trained Behavior Therapists.
Recognizing early intervention to be the most effective treatment for children with ASD, Ms. Sweeting sought an environment where she could combine her experience, knowledge, and leadership to provide high quality services to families seeking an early intervention program. She was drawn to FirstSteps for its core values of Early Intensive Behavior Intervention and high treatment integrity. In 2015, she accepted a position as a Program Director and is excited to be a part of the FirstSteps family.
Jennifer Abdullah, M.Ed., BCBA
Jennifer Abdullah has had a lifelong interest in education. Early into young adulthood, she found that many of her passions - such as music and theatre - were always more enjoyable when teaching them to children. She knew that her future career would eventually lead her to work with young people.
Ms. Abdullah graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a BA in Sociology. While spending her early post-graduate years exploring different fields, she learned of Applied Behavior Analysis, and was instantly compelled to work with children and families affected by Autism. It was only a few months into working as a therapeutic instructor that she realized this was her calling.
Ms. Abdullah joined the FirstSteps team in 2014, and honed her clinical skills as a lead instructor while completing her graduate education. In August of 2015, she earned a Master’s of Education in Applied Behavior Analysis from Arizona State University. She is honored to work as a Program Manager alongside an immensely skilled and talented clinical team, and could not be more thrilled to witness the success and growth of her clients.
Brittany Tidwell, M.S.Ed., BCBA
From a very young age, Brittany Plony knew that she wanted to work with children. She attended summer camp for many years, and worked as a Volunteer Counselor in Training while doing so. Pursuing her passion of working with children, she received her B.S. in Education with a concentration in Humanities from State University of New York at Cortland. Knowing upon graduation that she wanted to work specifically with students with special needs, she went on to pursue her Masters in Special Education from State University of New York at Binghamton, where she was the Graduate Assistant for the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities.
Upon graduating from her program, she took a job in Maryland, where she taught Special Education at a Learning Center and Resource teacher, servicing students in Kindergarten through Grade 5. She additionally worked as the Special Education Team Leader, where she worked collaboratively with school administrators and personnel, to ensure student success. While teaching, Ms. Plony decided that Behavior Analysis was a route that she wanted to pursue further. Following this desire, she received her Post-Masters Certificate in Behavior Analysis from St. Joseph’s University. Wanting to gain experience in Behavior Analysis, she took a job as an ABA Therapist and Supervisor, working for a company in the Greater Boston area. While there, she was able to work in both the schools and the homes of students with varying abilities, ranging in ages from 3-16. She later relocated to the San Francisco Bay area, in search of a company committed to improving the lives of children with developmental and behavioral disorders, which she thankfully found with FirstSteps for Kids, Inc.
Ms. Plony is proud to be a part of the FirstSteps family as a Program Manager in the Contra Costa location, where she is able to support and work alongside the instructors, Program Directors, families, and students.
Lexy Rhodes, M.A., BCBA
Lexy Rhodes has always had a passion for working with children. She worked as a girl scout camp counselor for many summers when she was young. She grew up with a twin brother who was impacted by attention deficit disorder, and as a result, she had a desire to pursue psychology during her undergraduate years. In 2010, Ms. Rhodes graduated from California State University East Bay with a B.A. in Psychology. Upon graduation, Ms. Rhodes began working as a 1:1 Behavior Interventionist, providing ABA services.
In 2013, Ms. Rhodes began working on her Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology. Throughout her graduate education, Ms. Rhodes worked in a variety of settings with children of all ages. She worked as a Para-Educator in an elementary school and an Intern Therapist at a high school counseling center. She also continued part time work in ABA. Upon completion of her graduate education, it was clear to Ms. Rhodes that she wanted to further pursue a career in Behavior Analysis. When she discovered FirstSteps for Kids, she knew it was a company that shared her values and passion for helping children and families. Ms. Rhodes is currently a Program Manager in our Contra Costa County location, where she absolutely loves the children and the team that she works with. She is motivated to help children and families improve the quality of their every day lives!
Program Managers assist Program Directors in the management of their clients cases. Depending on the needs of the client, Program Managers may assist with case initiation, parent education and training, assessment and data collection/analysis, program modifications, and training and support for Lead Instructors, Instructors, and Trainees. Program Managers also provide direct intervention for their clients in the home, school, and community settings. All Program Managers hold masters degrees in psychology and/or applied behavior analysis and are Board Certified Behavior Analysts or are in the process of completing their certification as Board Certified Behavior Analysts.
Samantha McConvey earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Studies with a Minor in Art, from Notre Dame de Namur University in 2013. She is currently working towards a Master’s degree in Curriculum & Instruction in Applied Behavior Analysis, from Arizona State University.
While working towards her Bachelor’s degree, Ms. McConvey worked 1:1 with students, which helped her to realize her passion for working with children with disabilities. After graduating from NDNU, Samantha discovered FirstSteps for Kids, and was hired as an Instructor. In 2014, she was promoted to a Lead Instructor where she gained more experience and became more inspired by her colleagues. Now, as a Program Manager she enjoys collaborating with the Program Directors to provide the most effective treatment.
Currently, Ms. McConvey's focus is on completing her Master’s program, and continuing her professional growth. Samantha’s area of interest include adaptive behavior, executive functioning, and social skills training.
Ms. McConvey feels lucky to have coworkers who share the same passion and values. She loves working in the field of ABA, and feels right at home at FirstSteps.
FirstSteps Lead Instructors provide one-to-one behavior intervention services with your child in the home, school, and community settings. They also manage your child's treatment program and team, while supporting the Program Director and Program Manager.
Lead Instructors - Contra Costa
Director of Training & Employee Development
Our Director of Training & Employee Development, Ms. Demi Contreras, epitomizes the heart and enthusiasm of our FirstSteps' clinical team. She is responsible for overseeing our FirstSteps Training Department and ensuring our Training Managers provide exceptional coaching and support to our new staff. Ms. Contreras personally guarantees that each clinical team member shares our FirstSteps values and mission to provide our clients with state of the art treatment and a brighter future.
Demetria Contreras, BCaBA
Demetria Contreras began her career in the field of Behavior Analysis in 2001 after learning of her godson's diagnosis of Autism. Refusing to believe his doctors who explained that her godson would likely not talk or have friends, she researched the treatment options available at the time. She quickly determined that ABA was the only empirically validated and effective intervention and committed herself to becoming an expert. From 2001 through 2005, Demi worked as a senior therapeutic instructor, providing hundreds of hours of both direct intervention and parent training to families with children diagnosed with Autism.
In 2005, Ms. Contreras joined our FirstSteps team as a Lead Instructor. Not only did she work with countless FirstSteps children and families, she also partnered with other FirstSteps Program Directors and dedicated herself to recruiting, training, and assembling bilingual therapy teams with the mission to bring ABA services to non-English speaking families.
In 2006, Ms. Contreras was promoted to the position of Director of Training & Employee Development. In this capacity, Ms. Contreras continues to work directly with FirstSteps children and families while also leading the Training Department to training and providing ongoing support to our new instructors, ensuring they perfect their instructional technique and meet the specific needs of our children.
Ms. Contreras has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from California State University, Los Angeles and has also earned her certification as a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA).