ABA is a widely prescribed and research proven intervention for individuals on the autism spectrum. Many centers and in-home therapist provide ABA to parents seeking these services to assist with skill acquisition or behavior modification. But how does a parent know if the therapy that their child is receiving is good or even adequate? Here are some things to consider when hiring an ABA therapist or signing your child up at a center.
Who should be providing the therapy?
ABA providers may vary in training, experience, and certification. Therapists may be certified through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. If they are board certified and have at least a Master’s degree, then they will have the letters BCBA after their name. BCBA-D means they have a doctoral degree. Other therapists may have BCABA credentials. This means education in ABA at a Bachelor’s level.
Some ABA therapists may have years of experience providing ABA but may not be formally “certified.” Uncertified ABA therapists may have trained under and had their work supervised by a certified ABA therapist. While uncertified therapists may provide individual ABA skills instruction, they should be supervised by someone with credentials or similar experience.
The program should be designed and monitored by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) or someone with similar credentials. Supervisors should have extensive experience working with children with autism.
All participants should be fully trained (including parents), with supervisors providing support, monitoring, and ongoing training for the duration of the program.
The program should be created after a detailed assessment has been conducted and tailored to the child’s specific deficits and skills. Family and learner preferences should be given consideration in determining treatment goals. Generalization tasks should be built into the program to ensure performance of skills in multiple environments.
Goals selected should be beneficial and functional to the individual and increase or enhance his/her quality of life. A mix of behavior analytic therapies should be used so that the child has an opportunity to learn in different ways.
Data (or scores) on skill acquisition and behavior reduction should be recorded and analyzed regularly. This data should be reviewed by the supervisor and used to measure the progress of the individual and provide information for program planning.
Family members should be trained in order to teach and reinforce skills. They should be involved in both the planning and review process.
Meetings that involve the therapists, supervisor and involved family members are necessary to maintain consistency, identify pertinent issues and discuss progress.
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Article written by Zonya Mitchell, PsyD., Neuropsychologist at the Fay J Lindner Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities.