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How to choose an ABA Provider!

When a child first receives an Autism Diagnosis, one of the first recommendations a doctor makes is typically involvement in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Children can spend up to 40- hours per week involved in ABA services and in a world where everyone claims to have answers, making a decision can be a daunting task.

This week, we’ve compiled a list of 7 things you can look out for when picking a gold-star ABA center!

1) Certification through the BACB:

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) is the credentialing body of professionals in the field of behavior analysis. There are 3 levels of certification from the BACB.

Registered Behavior Technician (RBT): The RBT is a paraprofessional- level therapist who has a high school diploma or equivalent. The RBT has completed 40 hours of BACB- approved coursework focusing on behavior analysis. They have also completed a skills checklist with a BCaBA or BCBA and have passed an examination through the BACB. RBTs are required to pass a competency assessment annually to renew their credential. More information on the RBT credential is available here.

Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA): BCaBAs hold an undergraduate degree in behavior analysis or a related field with special training in behavior analysis. BCaBAs can provide supervision to RBTs, but must practice under the supervision of a BCBA. BCaBAs must acquire supervised fieldwork and pass a certification exam through the BACB. Continuing education requirements must be met every 2 years to qualify for certification renewal. More information on the BCaBA credential can be found here.

Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA): A BCBA holds a master’s degree in behavior analysis or a related field. BCBAs may practice behavior analysis independently and provide supervision to practitioners acting in the BCaBA and RBT role. BCBAs must hold a master’s degree from an accredited college or university, complete coursework approved by the BACB related to the field of behavior analysis, and complete supervised fieldwork during the course of their studies. In addition to coursework and field experience, BCBAs must pass a certification exam through the BACB. Continuing education requirements must be completed every 2 years to qualify for certification renewal. More information about the BCBA credential is available here.

Board Certified Behavior Analyst- Doctoral (BCBA-D): Professionals with a BCBA-D credential serve in the same role as a BCBA, but hold a doctorate degree in behavior analysis or a related field with special training in behavior analysis. BCBA-Ds must accumulate experience in the field and publish articles to peer- reviewed journals on the topic of behavior analysis during their course of study. As with all credentials, BCBA-Ds must pass an examination from the BACB and complete continuing education requirements every 2 years. More information on this credential is available here.

All BACB professionals must pass a background check and adhere to ethical guidelines laid out by the Board. You can find those ethical guidelines here.

2) Up close and personal meetings with your BCBA!

When you start an ABA program, you want to be sure you get to meet the team who will be working with your child. Children can spend up to 40 hours per week in ABA, so be sure you’re given the opportunity to meet with their supervising BCBA. The BCBA will be responsible for assessing your child and coming up with treatment goals, and a close relationship with this person ensures you have input on your child’s treatment and stay up-to date with goal progression.

3) Certified Crisis Management Procedures:

When looking for an ABA center, ensure that staff are trained using a safe, effective strategy for handling crisis behaviors such severe or continuous aggression, self-injury, or property destruction.

4) Tours, Tours, Tours!

Make sure you get a chance to see the space where your child will be working. Sometimes, HIPAA regulations prevent practitioners from admitting parents into treatment areas during the day, so try to schedule a tour at closing or first thing in the morning, if possible.

5) Parent Training

A great ABA center will ensure that you, as a parent, are trained in behavioral intervention strategies to implement at home with your child. These strategies can range from increasing language and play skills to decreasing problem behaviors. As always, your BCBA or BCaBA should be available to provide training or answer any questions you may have about problems arising at home.

6) Center Based AND Community Based Services

Generalization is our ability to use skills in a wide variety of settings, with a variety of people, and using a variety of items. Some children with Autism struggle to take skills learned in a one environment and apply them to a new environment, ABA professionals understand this struggle well, and a great ABA center will offer to provide services in the clinic, in the home, and in the community to assist in the process of generalization.

7) Happy, Dedicated Staff

A sure-fire sign that you have found an awesome ABA center is staff members who are excited to share your child’s accomplishments with you at the end of the day! Your therapist should be able to answer questions regarding your child’s therapy program and should direct you to the supervising BCBA when necessary.


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