North Los Angeles/Ventura Counties
Regional Clinic Director
Your Regional Clinic Director, Ms. Taira Lanagan Bermudez 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.
Taira Lanagan Bermudez, M.S., BCBA
Taira Bermudez received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology with a minor in Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. During this time, Ms. Bermudez worked with children and adults with developmental disabilities. After moving to the Los Angeles area, she began working in the field of autism, providing behavioral intervention to children and adolescents. She received her Master of Science Degree in Counseling with an emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) from California State University, Los Angeles.
Before beginning with FirstSteps, Ms. Bermudez served children diagnosed with autism and related disorders as an ABA Supervisor in the San Fernando Valley for over six years. In addition to providing and supervising comprehensive ABA intervention to children, Ms. Bermudez has expertise in conducting experimental functional analyses, assessing and treating challenging behaviors, treating feeding problems, and facilitating adherence to various medical procedures.
Ms. Bermudez joined the FirstSteps team in 2011 and continues her work providing behavior analytic services to children with autism. She is the Regional Clinic Director for our North Los Angeles center and specializes as the Director of Feeding Services. Ms. Bermudez is devoted to treatment evaluation, research, and the dissemination of behavior analysis. She regularly presents at autism and ABA conferences and is an author of a book devoted to behavioral feeding interventions, as well as several scientific papers and book chapters.
Ms. Bermudez is an enthusiastic FirstSteps team member who values family involvement as well as collaboration with outside service providers. She is dedicated to the families that she serves and relishes in the everyday accomplishments of her clients.
Director of Clinical Development
Courtney Lanagan-Tarbox, M.S., BCBA
Courtney Tarbox joined our FirstSteps clinical team in 2005 and has worked in a variety of positions, culminating in her current role as Regional Clinic Director. Prior to coming to FirstSteps, Ms. Tarbox began her career in autism by working with young children in home-based behavioral intervention programs, while working toward her Bachelor's Degree in Psychology, with a minor in child development from California State University, San Luis Obispo. Ms.. Tarbox's early work in developmental disabilities included working in respite, therapeutic, residential, and educational settings, with individuals diagnosed with a variety of developmental disorders and ranging in age from early childhood to adolescence.
As Director of Cliniccal Deveolopment at FirstSteps, Ms. Tarbox is responsible for designing and supervising the implementation of comprehensive intervention programs for children with autism and related disorders. These responsibilities include creating intervention plans for teaching skills across all educational, social, and adaptive domains, as well as training and supervising staff in their implementation.
While working at FirstSteps, Ms. Tarbox earned her Master of Science Degree in Counseling, with a specialization in Applied Behavior Analysis from California State University, Los Angeles. Ms. Tarbox is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and is actively engaged in treatment evaluation research. Among Ms.. Tarbox's interests are language acquisition and the assessment and treatment of stereotypy and phobic behaviors. Ms. Tarbox is also a regular presenter at national autism and ABA conferences.
Ms. Tarbox is inspired by the dedication shown by the families with whom she works and by the daily triumphs their children make. Whether it's a child graduating to a general education classroom without support, or an early learner acquiring the ability to communicate his or her basic wants and needs for the first time, the progress of our children provides an everyday source of motivation for her continued commitment to her Firststeps career in behavior analysis.
Ms. Tarbox currently resides in the Conejo Valley with her husband and family. She is delighted to serve FirstSteps families located in both North Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
FirstSteps is committed to achieving the best possible outcomes for the children and families we serve. Essential to this goal is effective and ongoing program supervision provided by our Program Directors. At FirstSteps, all Program Directors have a minimum of a Master's Degree AND are Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs), with at least 5 years of behavior analytic experience with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
As a client of FirstSteps, your child has a designated Program Director who is responsible for developing his or her individualized Treatment Plan which includes establishing clearly defined, objective, measurable, and appropriate treatment goals and ensuring you and your child's clinical team are prepared and able to implement the plan successfully. Your Program Director will educate and support your family in the Principles of Applied Behavior Analysis, therapeutic targets and strategies, and behavior management techniques to ensure proper generalization of treatment effects outside of the structured therapy setting. To further support your child's learning and generalization, consultation and collaboration with your child's school teachers and other service providers will be provided by your Program Director on an ongoing and regular basis.
Your Program Director is dedicated to ensuring your child's success as well as supporting you and your family along the way. Please feel free to contact your Program Director at any time with questions or concerns.
Laurie Deurmier, M.S., BCBA
Laurie Deurmier received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology with a minor in Communication from the University of California, San Diego. Her subsequent Master of Science Degree in Counseling with an emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) was completed in 2007 at California State University, Los Angeles. While attending CSULA, Ms. Deurmier extensively studied methods of observation, schedules of reinforcement, and behavior management strategies as well as assessment research, including indirect, descriptive, and functional assessments.
Ms. Deurmier is one of our founding clinicians who helped establish FirstSteps in 2004. Prior to FirstSteps, Ms. Deurmier served children diagnosed with autism and related disorders as an ABA Therapeutic Instructor both locally and in Eastern Europe.
Today, Ms. Deurmier is a highly skilled Behavior Analyst with a particular expertise in school-based interventions. She enjoys collaborating with educators and is committed to teaching our children the skills necessary to succeed in any classroom.
Ms. Deurmier has also conducted numerous research projects and has presented her FirstSteps kids' successes at national ABA conferences including the California Association of Behavior Analysis convention and the Association of Behavior Analysis Autism conference.
Ms. Deurmier is dedicated to the children with whom she works and has an aspiration to see each child flourish. She looks forward to being part of each FirstSteps’ child's educational and social development today and for years to come.
Ms. Deurmier lives in Ventura County with her husband and two daughters and serves FirstSteps’ families residing in Ventura and North Los Angeles Counties.
Nicki Williams, M.A., BCBA
Nicki Williams has been working with children with special needs for the past 8 years across various settings. In 2008, Ms. Williams graduated from California Lutheran University with a B.S. in Exercise Science and immediately knew she wanted to combine her education with her interest in child development. Excited to explore her developed interest, Ms. Williams joined a center-based, early intervention agency where she gained experience leading small social skills groups for young children. Additionally, Ms. Williams worked as a 1:1 behavior therapist in the school setting, working primarily with children with autism. It was in these two settings, her admiration for ABA therapy was born and her inspiration to pursue a career in the field.
In 2011, Ms. Williams graduated from Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena with an M.A. in Human Development, with an emphasis in early child development. After graduation, Nicki moved back to Ventura County to continue to gain experience as a lead behavior therapist, working with children primarily in their homes and in the community. At this time, Nicki helped organize and lead weekend play groups for children and families with special needs, which provided an atmosphere for children and families to connect and learn more about the benefits of ABA.
Ms. Williams obtained her BCBA in 2014 through Florida Institute of Technology, and is thrilled to grow with the Ventura County FirstSteps team. Recently, Ms. Williams assisted the clinical team with a sleep study, collecting data and implementing behavior strategies for children affected by sleep disturbances, as well as participating in a study that examined the rates of learning when skills were presented in creative and fun teaching styles. Ms. Williams' areas of interest include teaching play, social, and executive functioning skills. The children Ms. Williams works with, and the amazing teams she learns from, inspire and drive her ambition to continue to grow professionally. She is thrilled to be part of this amazing community and be part of the inspiring FirstSteps family.
Karin Rivetti, M.A., BCBA
Karin Rivetti began working with children and their families after receiving her bachelor’s degree in Child Development with a specialized degree in Child Mental Health from California State University, Northridge. Early in her career, Ms. Rivetti provided patient care for children and adults who were admitted to inpatient and partial hospitalization programs. As a member of the Crisis Intake Team, she became keenly aware of the complex needs of individuals and families in crisis, and a passion grew to support children and their families facilitating meaningful change in their lives. Upon relocation, she connected with a family with a child who had special needs and through this experience and partnership, began her work in developing an early intervention program. It is through providing direct care to young children with special needs, and later supervising an integrated Early Childhood Education/Early Intervention Program that inspired her search for what is most effective.
Ms. Rivetti spent several years collaborating with school districts, regional centers, speech, occupational and ABA therapists. It was seeing the positive life changing effects of Applied Behavior Analysis with children with special needs, that inspired her to learn more about ABA. She enrolled in a Masters program and received her master’s degree in Exceptional Student Education and BCBA practicum from the University of West Florida. As a BCBA, Ms. Rivetti has continued to follow her passion supporting children and their families. It is working with the children at FirstSteps for Kids, that has been most rewarding for her. It is the privilege of collaborating with exceptional professionals at FirstSteps and developing individual treatment plans that produce significant changes that is most meaningful.
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.
Melanie D'Agati, M.S.
Melanie D’Agati received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology with an emphasis in Child and Adolescent Development from California Lutheran University in 2013. During her time as an undergraduate Ms. D’Agati worked teaching Sunday school for first grade through third grade, as well as sacrament preparation for children on the spectrum and related disorders. It was then that her passion for working with children grew and became a professional goal to continue to work with children with special needs.
In 2013, Ms. D’Agati joined the FirstSteps team as an instructor providing ABA services in homes, schools, and communities. In 2014 she became a lead instructor, which allowed her to work more hands-on with the Program Directors in designing and implementing intervention plans. While working as a lead instructor, she received her Masters of Science in Criminal Justice with a specialty in Behavior Analysis from Saint Joseph’s University, where she studied and developed a passion for social skills groups, parent training, and school-based programming.
Ms. D’Agati is thrilled to be supporting the families she works with and is consistently inspired by the success of each individual child as well as the hard work, dedication, and team approach that FirstSteps brings.
Courtney Gates, M.Ed.
Courtney Gates earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from the University of California Riverside in 2012. During her time as an undergraduate, she tutored 1:1 with underprivileged children from low-income areas. Her passion for working with children continued to grow as she earned an Early Childhood Education certificate in 2013.
In 2014, Ms. Gates joined the FirstSteps team as an instructor. She learned fundamental principles of Applied Behavior Analysis while also admiring the culture that FirstSteps embodies and provides to its staff and clients. She later became a lead instructor where she had the opportunity to become more involved in assisting to develop intervention plans. It was at this point that Ms. Gates decided to go back to school to further her education in Applied Behavior Analysis.
In 2017, she became a Program Manager in which she continues to provide and implement the most effective intervention plans to meet the needs of the families she services and also works with Program Directors to uphold the excellence of FirstSteps in developing individualized programming. Ms. Gates completed her Master of Education program in Applied Behavior Analysis at Arizona State University in May 2018 and will be sitting her for BCBA exam in August of 2018. She is thrilled to be a part of a dedicated team of talented professionals that strive for excellence and is looking forward to continuing her clinical and professional growth with 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 - Ventura County
|Merrein Christenson||Giovanni Madia|
|Chelsea Damiani||Lily Oliveros|
|Katherine Henry||Tiphanie Ortiz|
|Alicia Kaleski||Brittany Vientos|
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).
Regional Training Manager
Our Regional Training Manager, Ms. Kim Baldwin, is responsible for recruiting, screening, hiring, and training our new clinical team members. She is directly involved with each FirstSteps child's treatment plan and is able to effectively coach our staff and maximize treatment integrity. As a FirstSteps family, you will see her regularly as she "pops-in" to observe your child's sessions, provide feedback, and test your child's skills and generalization of skills across instructors.
Cristina Moore knew she wanted to work with children ever since she was a little girl. Being that her mother was an elementary school teacher during Ms. Moore’s childhood, and later a school principal, it was no surprise when, in 2004, Ms. Moore graduated with a B.A. in Liberal Studies and a Teaching Credential for Multiple Subjects in Elementary School, from California State University, Northridge. After working as a classroom teacher for five years, Ms. Moore found an opportunity to work with children in another capacity. It was then that she began a new career in the field of ABA with FirstSteps for Kids, Hermosa Beach, as Therapeutic Instructor.
After providing 1:1 behavior therapy to children in their homes for over 2 years, she knew this is what she was meant to do, so she went on to help establish FirstSteps, Ventura County in 2011. Because she loved the amazing impact ABA had on each individual child as well as their families, Ms. Moore pursued the position of Lead Instructor with FirstSteps, and in January of 2013, after much extensive training and dedication, she became a Lead Instructor.
In July of 2014, Ms. Moore was promoted to Training Coordinator in the Ventura County office. She then completed coursework through Florida Institute of Technology towards her BCaBA, and when she earned this certification in February 2016, she was promoted to Regional Training Manager of North LA/Ventura County. Ms. Moore feels absolutely honored that FirstSteps has chosen her for this very important role, and she truly enjoys finding fresh faces and training them to positively impact the lives of the children and families that FirstSteps serves, while also supporting the current staff that she feels lucky to work side by side with every day.