Empowering Lives: A Commitment to Special Education and Impactful Mentorship

May 23, 2024
Julie Hrabal

As a passionate advocate for educational psychology and the transformative power of applied behavior analysis (ABA), Julie Hrabal strives to positively impact lives with developmental disabilities and aid in advancing their goals. Her wealth of experience, scholarly achievements, and commitment to teaching and research are positively impacting the lives of individuals and communities with disabilities.

Hrabal's journey into the world of special education began at a young age. Growing up with cousins who have disabilities, she was always driven to help in any way she could. This desire to make a difference was further fueled when she met her classmate, Chelsea, who has a rare genetic condition called CHARGE syndrome. From kindergarten to high school graduation, Hrabal watched Chelsea's growth, which deepened her passion for the disability community. This personal connection continues to inspire Hrabal to educate others on how to work and interact with individuals like Chelsea and Chelsea’s family members.

Hrabal is a BCDD Student Fellow and a doctoral candidate in the Educational Psychology Department at Baylor University. She is also an adjunct teaching undergraduate and graduate classes. On the side, she works a few shifts a week at Bitty & Beau’s coffee shop in downtown Waco, which employs adults with and without disabilities. Hrabal helps fellow staff develop their job and social skills. 

She received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Tarleton University through McLennan Community College. She then went to Texas State University and received a master’s degree in special education with certification in Autism. After obtaining the required supervision hours and completing her master’s, she sat for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) examination and received her credentials and licensure in 2020.

Hrabal stumbled into the world of ABA through a chance conversation with a good friend. This piqued her interest, prompting her to delve deeper into the field. She said, “As I discovered and learned more about the principles and practical applications of ABA, I found myself passionately engrossed in the work.” Since obtaining her master's degree, she realized that she was not yet finished and could contribute more at an advanced level, which has led her to seek a Doctorate.

Hrabal’s dissertation will focus on caregiver-implemented interventions to help increase independent living skills with their adolescent/adult child with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Hrabal said, “Statistics show adults with IDD continue to live at home with caregivers after graduating high school, so caregivers become their primary teachers. With that, I want to examine the effects of training these caregivers to implement evidence-based practices when teaching their child/ren independent living skills.”

As a first-generation college graduate, Hrabal takes immense pride in witnessing the families and children she has worked with thriving even years after their time together. She said, “It brings me so much joy to see or hear from the families and kids I have worked with on their accomplishments through social media or a phone call from their caregivers. Also, when they see me, they’re genuinely happy to see me, and I can’t describe the happiness it brings me.” This personal satisfaction, derived from making an impact, is a testament to the joy it brings to her life. She said, “The joy of seeing someone else thrive and achieve their goals is a feeling that any personal accomplishment cannot match.” 

Upon completing her studies, she is enthusiastic about continuing her role as an educator and mentor for aspiring behavior analysts and special educators. Hrabal is dedicated to advancing the field of ABA by using evidence-based practices to enhance the lives of individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. She said, “I am particularly interested in working with adolescents and young adults and their caregivers. My ultimate goal is to confidently influence the lives of the young adults and families I work with by empowering them with the tools they need to thrive.”

Hrabal’s commitment and service align with the mission and vision of the BCDD through her research and work with children and young adults with disabilities. Her work focuses on advancing a supportive society by nurturing social skills for individuals with disabilities. This enables individuals with disabilities to actively participate in various social settings and lead fulfilling lives.