East Los Angeles
Regional Clinic Director
Your Regional Clinic Director is responsible for ensuring FirstSteps program integrity. He 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 him at any time with questions, concerns, or to discuss your child's treatment progress.
Evelyn Gould, PhD, BCBA-D
Dr. Evelyn Gould fell in love with applied behavior analysis (ABA) 15 years ago, when she worked with Dr. Trevor Stokes and his clinic team at the Shriner’s Hospital for Sick Children and the University of South Florida. During this time, Ms. Gould was inspired by the hope provided to families through the achievement of real, meaningful, measurable behavior change, regardless of the challenges they presented with. Upon returning home to Ireland to complete her studies, Ms Gould sought employment in the field of ABA and subsequently began a career in autism. Ms. Gould has since worked with children, adolescents and young people with ASD (and their families), in a variety of school, home, clinic and residential settings. In 2009, Ms. Gould moved to the United States to fulfill a number of different roles at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Inc. (CARD), including Clinical Trainer and Supervisor, Director of Care Management, Research and Development Supervisor, and Content Development Manager for CARD’s online assessment and comprehensive treatment curriculum. Ms. Gould has remained passionate about the provision of high-quality clinical services and family interventions, and was delighted to join the FirstSteps team in October 2014.
Ms. Gould recently completed her Ph.D. in Psychology (Behavior Analysis Specialization) at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D). Prior to completing her PhD, Ms. Gould received her B.S.(Hons.) in Applied Psychology from University of Ulster, N.Ireland, and her M.S. in Applied Behavior Analysis from the University of Wales, U.K.. She continues to contribute to the field through training, research, and dissemination. Ms. Gould has published research articles in journals such as Behavioral Interventions and Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, in addition to book chapters on parent training and curriculum development. Her particular areas of interest are in the behavioral analysis of complex human behavior (language, cognition, executive functions), parenting and parent training, and the application of Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT) in the workplace, and for families. Her recent doctoral dissertation evaluated the benefits of a brief ACT intervention for parents of children with ASD.
Evelyn was recently invited to serve on the Editorial Board of the peer-reviewed journal, Behavioral Analysis in Practice.
Erin Herbe, M.S., BCBA
Erin Herbe initially joined FirstSteps for Kids, Inc. after graduating from Loyola Marymount University with a BA in Psychology and a Minor in English. During her time at FirstSteps, she entered a Masters of Special Education/Teaching Credential program at National University.
In 2008, Erin took a hiatus from FirstSteps to complete her teaching credential at The Help Group, Village Glen West in Culver City. During her time as an educator, Erin gained a wealth of experience in classroom behavior management, curriculum modifications, adaptive skill training, as well as the IEP process. After 2 successful years of teaching, Erin was promoted to Assistant Principal of the elementary program where she gained experience supervising staff, creating classroom behavior plans for middle and high school students with ASD, as well as collaborating with myriad professionals including teachers, LAS providers, OT providers, and a variety of Southern California school districts.
In 2012, Erin returned to FirstSteps, eager to jump back into ABA with a host of knowledge and experience to apply to our families. In 2014, she became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.
Erin is currently involved in several projects at FirstSteps to include conducting research on first trial data collection, assisting in the development of the East Los Angeles Center Based Services program, as well as serving clients in the East Los Angeles region. She strives to provide the best quality of care for all her clients and is always seeking out ways to learn and grow as a behavior analyst.
Jacqulyn Higgs, M.S., BCBA
Having grown up with a family member with special needs, Ms. Higgs developed a passion for helping children and their families at quite a young age. In 2007, Ms. Higgs was introduced to the world of Autism and immediately realized that helping children and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders was her calling.
Ms. Higgs began as a 1:1 therapist working children with Autism at an early intervention program in the Central Valley. Witnessing the effectiveness of Applied Behavior Analysis sparked her desire to continue her education and start her path to becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She began taking Applied Behavior Analysis courses through Florida Institute of Technology.
Jacqulyn joined FirstSteps in 2011 as a Lead Instructor. With her experience and education Ms. Higgs was promoted to a FS Program Manager while she completed her Master’s of Science degree from NOVA Southeastern University. In May 2014, she earned her degree in Counseling with an emphasis in Advanced Applied Behavior Analysis. In October 2014, Ms. Higgs fulfilled her dream and became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.
Ms. Higgs loves working with children and their families. She continually strives to apply creative and effective treatment strategies for the reduction of maladaptive behaviors and increasing functional skill sets. Jacqulyn enthusiastically looks forward to continuing to help children and their families for years to come.
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.
Joh Zaporteza, M.Ed.
In January 2014, Joh Zaporteza joined FirstSteps for Kids as an Instructor and fell in love with the company’s approach to teaching children with Autism. Shortly after being promoted to Lead Instructor, she gained more experience in training instructors and parents during therapy sessions. Inspired by her amazing colleagues, families, and children, she pursued a career in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Now as a Program Manager she enjoys collaborating with Program Directors to design and implement effective treatment.
Ms. Zaporteza received a Masters in Curriculum & Instruction in Applied Behavior Analysis from Arizona State University in May 2016. In 2013, Ms. Zaporteza graduated from California Polytechnic University Pomona with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Liberal Studies. She has been working with children with Autism in the classroom setting since 2010.
Ms. Zaporteza’s areas of interest include parent training, communication training, increasing play skills, and social skills training. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, bowling, rock climbing, and being outdoors.
Jenna Stauffer, M.S.
Jenna Stauffer graduated from the University of Nebraska in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies. Throughout high school and her undergraduate studies, Jenna worked as a volunteer tutor and mentor to elementary students in the inner-city. This work inspired her to pursue a career working with children. Before joining FirstSteps, Jenna worked with various non-profit organizations providing services to families, from local homeless parents and children, to children abroad in Uganda. These experiences continue to fuel Jenna's desire to help families reach their full potential, and led her to seek further education and training at Fuller Theological Seminary. Jenna graduated in 2012 with a Masters degree in Marital and Family Therapy.
After a number of years of working in marriage and family therapy, Jenna heard about First Steps for Kids. Jenna was curious to learn more about Applied Behavior Analysis and joined the First Steps team in 2014. Jenna quickly fell in love with the children and families she was working with, and the science of ABA. Jenna’s previous work experience and skills as an Instructor lead her to quickly be promoted to Lead Instructor, and then to Program Manger. As a Program Manager, Jenna loves collaborating with her Program Directors to design effective treatment programs for the children she works with. Jenna also continues to have a passion for working closely with parents and is assisting in the development of parent support services at FirstSteps. Jenna is currently pursuing Certification as a Behavior Analyst (BCBA).
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 - East Los Angeles
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).