Meet the Staff: Lori Gray, M.S.Ed.
Lori Gray is currently the school psychologist at Eden II’s preschool and school programs on Staten Island. She obtained a Master’s degree in education in 2000 and, the following year, a certification in school psychology from Brooklyn College. Ms. Gray has over 20 years experience working with people of all ages diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). She is dedicated to the practice of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and has shown that commitment in all of her endeavors.
Why did you decide to work with young children with autism?
My journey working with people with autism began in 1996. My friend had been working in a home with a 4 year old boy who was diagnosed and was showing much improvement through the use of Applied Behavior Analysis. She recruited me onto his team and I never looked back! I was so honored to play such a vital role in this child’s success and, with every step of his progress, my heart burst with pride. It helped me to appreciate the “little” things in life. I saw how hard this child and his family worked day in and day out…and I knew that my life’s calling was to help others who were on this path.
I was blessed to have the opportunity to intern at Eden II in my last year of graduate school and when I graduated, became one of the school psychologists at Granite Avenue. For the next few years, I worked with students age 3-13 years. I eventually left Eden II and began working in a preschool, but always remained part of Eden II’s Human Rights Committee. I returned in 2014, serving as a behavior intervention specialist at the adult program and in residential. In 2017, I again became the school psychologist at the preschool and school programs. I have truly come full circle. I’m so grateful for my experiences, being able to work with incredible people, their inspiring families and the wonderful staff at Eden II.
What are some moments that have stuck out to you while working at Eden II?
One of the most heartwarming moments I’ve experienced at Eden II was at the beginning of my internship. I received a phone call from a crying parent of a primarily nonverbal 6 year old telling me that her child said, “I love you,” for the first time. Before that, I didn’t realize the impact that we had on these families, who often take very little for granted.
Another event that touched me so deeply was when I returned to Eden II’s adult program and was greeted, by name, by some of the participants who hadn’t seen me in over 10 years. I was honored that I had been remembered, even though so much time had passed.
What do you consider to be the most rewarding thing about working with our participants?
Working with individuals with ASD can often be challenging, especially from a behavioral and/or counseling aspect. Assisting those people and their families, however, has been the most rewarding experience of my life. Through the years, I have seen so many grow and become incredible adults who overcome the odds and stereotypes (that, unfortunately, still do exist).
Where do you hope to see Eden II in 10 years?
In 2016, the Center for Disease Control reported that approximately 1 in 68 children (1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls) in the United States has been identified with ASD. This number is alarming, as there certainly are not enough programs that provide needed ABA services for these individuals. The mission statement of Eden II is clear: “…to support people with autism throughout their lives to achieve their fullest potential through service, science and passion.” To fulfill this, Eden II must physically expand all of its day programs in order to meet the needs of the growing community. Ongoing public education must continue. More job opportunities for our participants must be sought. Self-determination, our participants’ right to direct their own futures, must be further explored. More residential housing prospects must be available for families who want to ensure the safety of their children when they can no longer provide for them and they cannot do so for themselves.
I am confident that Eden II will continue to grow over the next decade and provide superior quality services, as it has always done.