Clinical Staff – California

Carmela B. Sanford, M.A., BCBA
Clinical Director

Carmela has been in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis since 1999 using discrete trial teaching approach with children with Autism, in-home and at school. She has several years of experience with program development, program implementation, data interpretation, functional assessment, employee training and parent training. Carmela received her B.A. in Psychology from San Diego State University and received her M.A. in Teaching as well as ABA Certification from National University. She is fluent in Tagalog.

Carmela has attended training workshops for:

  • PECS by Dr. Andrew Bondy
  • TEACCH Fundamentals Training by the Greenville TEACCH Center
  • Level 1 Training: Pivotal Response Treatment by the UCSB Koegel Autism Center
  • In-service Instructors in Professional Assault Crisis Training
  • Social Stories by Carol Gray
  • Wrightslaw Special Education Advocacy Training by Peter and Pam Wright

“Our children are God’s greatest gift to us. No matter how they are packaged, this truth does not change. Be grateful; love, honor, and cherish them. If your child is not perfect or what you hoped for, God has not punished you for past deeds. He has given you an opportunity that you may not yet understand. Make the most of the situation, for you are in it for a purpose, and there are rewards, that you never imagined possible.” — author unknown

E-mail Carmela Sanford at

Monica Bernaldo, M.A., BCBA
Regional Manager

Monica Bernaldo is the Regional Manager for the greater Coachella Valley and the San Bernardino region. She began with B.E.S.T Services, Inc in 2004 after completing her education from California State University Northridge where she finished with a Bachelors of Arts in child development with an emphasis in special education. Monica has a solid background in Discrete Trial Teaching and TEACCH methodologies as well as a passion for working with children on the autism spectrum. Monica’s passion for her work is apparent in the community as she is an active member of the CVASA and volunteers her time to support the children in the child care room during the parent support group meetings. Monica completed a Masters degree in Teaching with a specialization in Applied Behavioral Analysis at National University. Monica is a member of the California Association of Behavior Analysis and attends their annual conference. Additionally, Monica received a Certificate of Completion for a two day training workshop for PECS facilitated by the Co-founder of PECS, Dr Andrew Bondy.

E-mail Monica Bernaldo at

Kristi-MaherKristi Maher, M.A., BCBA
Program Developer

Kristi Maher has worked in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis since 2002. She received her B.A. in Liberal Studies from CSU San Marcos in 2000 and her Multiple Subject Teaching Credential (Grades K-12) in 2001. Kristi later returned to school to earn her M.A. in Teaching from National University in 2011 followed by BCBA certification in January 2012.

Kristi joined B.E.S.T. Services, Inc. in 2002 working as a 1:1 tutor for the San Diego and Temecula regions, working within the home and school settings. In 2005 she became a Case Supervisor for San Diego County. Kristi has extensive work experience with children on the autism spectrum and continues to focus on expanding proficiency with developing social skill concepts. Kristi’s present position with B.E.S.T. Services additionally focuses on initial assessment and program development.

Additional training workshops Kristi has attended include:

  • The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) by Dr. Andrew Bondy
  • Social Stories™ by Carol Gray
  • Pivotal Response Training (PRT) by Drs. Robert and Lynn Koegel
  • Social Thinking by Michelle Garcia Winner

E-mail Kristi Maher at

Monica GarciaRachael Donahue, M.S., BCBA
Regional Manager

Rachael grew up in Boston, in a home that was very involved in Special Education. With a mother in the field and a close family friend with Autism, Rachael’s love and knowledge for this population began at an early age. Rachael has four years experience working as a teacher’s aide in a classroom for children with Autism. In 2010, Rachael moved to San Diego and began working at B.E.S.T., as a direct tutor. She has been a BCaBA since 2014, and recently earned a Master’s Degree in Psychology from Southern New Hampshire University, with a focus on Child and Adolescent Development.

E-mail Rachael Donahue at

MaraAikinMara Aikin, B.A., BCaBA
Case Supervisor

Mara Aikin graduated from California State University Channel Islands in May of 2010 with her Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies with an emphasis in Elementary Teaching. She then continued her education at California State University San Bernardino to obtain her Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and also her Mild to Moderate Special Education Teaching Credential. The University of San Bernardino is where Mara was first introduced to the wonderful world of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). After learning more about autism, she found inspiration and, in her heart she knew that a profession working with children with autism was her true calling. Mara began working with B.E.S.T. Services, Inc. in January of 2011 while still a student at Cal State San Bernardino. In December of 2012 Mara was promoted to Junior Case Advisor and is now in the process of obtaining her Master’s in Education as well as becoming a Board Certified Behavioral Analyst.

E-mail Mara Aikin at

Al KlughAl Klugh, BCBA
Behavior Consultant

Al came to BEST Services in 2012 via Virginia where he retired with 20 years of special education classroom experience, which included being the classroom teacher for the first autism program in the region, along with 10 years of administrative experience. His educational background includes earning his B.S. degree in Exceptional Children from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, and later earning his M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from Lynchburg College, Virginia. Al’s training has included a 2-week training by TEACCH in Chapel Hill, NC, attended 5 annual workshops by the Virginia Autism Resource Center in Winchester, Virginia, attended workshops by T/TAC, Virginia’s Training and Technical Assistance Centers, and PECS Level 1 training. Along with serving on committees at the state level, including the steering committee for Virginia’s Alternate Assessment, Al also helped form and co-led the county’s core autism group made up of parents, teachers, local businesses, and community leaders focused on autism education and training. Al is also preparing to sit for his BCBA certification exam.

E-mail Al Klugh at

Leticia Flores MartinezLeticia Flores Martinez, B.S., RBT
Senior Behavior Technician

My name is Leticia Martinez. I am 25 years old and single parent of 2 boys, 4&5 yrs. I graduated from Kaplan University with Bachelor of Science concentration ABA in 2016. In 2017 I started working as a behavioral aid in a preschool class for children ages 3-5 diagnosed with ASD out in Imperial County. In March 2017 I obtained my RBT license and I began working ABA in the afternoons while still employed as a behavioral aid. By 2018 I moved back to San Diego and worked as an RBT full time for B.E.S.T. Services, Inc. March 2018 I returned to school at Kaplan which is now Purdue Global University and am pursuing my Masters of Science concentration ABA. I am also obtaining supervision to test for the BCBA exam.

E-mail Leticia Flores Martinez at