Jessica Minahan has been helping children and people with special needs since she was 11 years old. Her parents instilled in her a sense of concern and responsibility for others and it has truly become her life’s work. Today, Jessica is a licensed and board certified behavior analyst (BCBA), author, special educator, and consultant to schools internationally. She is a blogger on The Huffington Post, as well as co-author of The Behavior Code: A
Practical Guide to Understanding and Teaching the Most Challenging Students (2012) and author of The Behavior Code Companion: Strategies, Tools, and Interventions for Supporting Students with Anxiety-Related or Oppositional Behaviors (2014). Jessica is sought-after and speaks globally on subjects ranging from effective interventions for students with anxiety to supporting hard-to-reach students in full-inclusion public school settings.
While at NHS, Jessica was involved in a range of activities, from serving as captain of the Varsity volleyball team and playing softball, to serving on the Social Awareness Committee (SAC). She was part of the 60+ group of students who banded together to form SAC to address racial tensions that arose, becoming agents of change in the culture and climate at NHS. Jessica was also involved with Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD).
Upon graduating from Needham High, Jessica earned a BS in Intensive Special Education from Boston University and a dual master’s in Special Education and Elementary Education from Wheelock College. She also has a certificate of graduate study (CGS) in teaching children with Autism from the University of Albany and received her BCBA training from Northeastern.
Jessica recalls that the staff at NHS always supported her passion for working with people with intellectual, emotional, and behavioral disabilities by allowing her to pursue internships and work experiences during high school. These include interning at the Massachusetts Hospital School (MHS), in Canton for students with physical disabilities; and volunteering at a preschool that was then located at NHS, where she was introduced to the public school interdisciplinary special education process. She also did an internship through The Educational Collaborative (TEC) where she volunteered at a community residence in Walpole for adults with mental health disabilities. Her experience working with these adults and watching them struggle to complete even simple tasks, ignited her interest in helping people with mental health disabilities.
Since 2000, Jessica has worked with students who have mental health issues and challenging behavior in public school systems. She specializes in training staff and creating behavior intervention plans for students who demonstrate explosive and unsafe behavior. She also works with students who have emotional and behavioral disabilities, anxiety disorders, or high-functioning Autism.
Jessica speaks frequently to teenagers and is well aware of the challenges they face today – constant exposure to social media, the expectation that everyone go to college and continue on to a master’s degree, the real threat of terrorism, and a peer group and family structure more disconnected due to the growing obsession with smartphones. Jessica’s advice to students is to “spend your high school years in the moment, having fun, discovering yourselves, and joining activities that may be out of your comfort zone. Self-doubt, self-consciousness, anxiety, perfectionism, and staying driven on one path may deter you from experiences that could end up being the most important in your life. The most unexpected experiences and people will shape your view of the world, your personality, and your future careers and passions – embrace this, discover new interests and ideas, surprise yourself!”
Jessica lives in Watertown, MA.