Guide: Determining the Quality of an ABA Therapist

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This guide provides a list of questions that help determine the quality of an ABA therapist for children with autism. It is not intended to be comprehensive, but instead provides a helpful toolkit in making decisions about where and how you might work with your child’s therapists. Though this guide seeks to answer only one question at a time, it also includes links throughout to other articles discussing various aspects of caregiving and education interventions for children on the spectrum.

Behavior analysis is the process of examining a person’s behavior in order to understand the cause and effect relationships. Behavior analysts are often referred to as ABA therapists. Read more in detail here: behavior analysis.


ABA programs may make a significant impact in a child’s life who has autism. Individualized treatment may significantly reduce bad behaviors and enhance abilities, enabling the kid to have more success in life. The method requires a high-quality ABA therapist or technician.

ABA therapists that are of high quality are qualified, experienced, and adhere to the Behavioral Analysis Certification Board’s ethical criteria.

What Is ABA and How Does It Work?

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a sort of treatment that employs learning and behavior science to assist persons with developmental or behavioral disorders such as autism. The purpose of ABA is to develop beneficial or good behaviors while reducing harmful or negative ones.

Many advantages may be gained through ABA treatment programs. They may help clients enhance their communication skills in a variety of social settings, increase their attention and concentration, and reduce harmful behaviors.

Since the 1960s, this sort of treatment has helped youngsters with autism. It may be tailored to the specific demands of each individual, so the emphasis is on the individual’s day-to-day needs.

ABA practitioners’ primary tactic is positive reinforcement. The therapist or technician establishes a target behavior and then rewards the youngster for properly completing each skill. This is a significant reward for the person. It may be a toy or a book, or just time spent watching a favorite program, or simply praise for a job well done.

How Does a Treatment Plan Get Made?

A trained board-certified behavior analyst creates ABA treatment plans (BCBA). This individual is in charge of developing and customizing an ABA program for your kid.

Your child’s abilities, requirements, preferences, interests, and family status will be assessed by the analyst. They’ll then devise a treatment strategy that focuses on the patient’s treatment objectives. This strategy will be tailored to your child’s age and abilities.

The treatment plan is normally created by a BCBA, but it is usually performed by a trained behavior technician (RBT). This is the individual with whom your kid will have ABA sessions on a regular basis. An RBT will always work under the supervision of a BCBA.

ABA Practices are being evaluated based on their overall structure.

ABA objectives are usually divided into many categories, such as:

  • Communication and language skills are important.
  • Social abilities.
  • Routines for self-care and hygiene.
  • It’s all about fun and relaxation.
  • The ability to move.
  • Academic and learning abilities.

The objectives are divided into smaller segments with measurable consequences. Each step will be broken out by the professional. To vocally build a word, for example, the technician will begin by breaking down each syllable.

Progress is measured by gathering data throughout each therapy session in order to understand how the treatment plan is progressing. The ABA therapist might reconsider how to approach the objectives if the kid does not make progress or makes only intermittent development.

ABA therapists also assist parents and teachers in better understanding autistic children so that they can create a better environment, engage more effectively, and encourage progress throughout the treatment plan. Even in this situation, ABA treatment must be closely monitored and evaluated on a regular basis. A technician who fails to make thorough, evidence-based records and show verifiable improvement is unlikely to be a successful ABA professional.

Training & Certifications for ABA Providers

Examining an ABA therapist’s or technician’s qualifications is the first and most crucial step in evaluating them. Depending on the degree of specialization, these certifications will differ.

  • BCBA: An ABA expert with a license, clinical experience, and training is known as a BCBA. ABA therapists are approved by the Behavioral Analyst Certification Board (BACB), which also grants licenses to practice. After the therapist’s name, the credential appears as board-certified behavioral analyst (BCBA). A master’s degree in a relevant subject, such as psychology, speech therapy, or special education, is required for a BCBA. After that, the person must take ABA-specific training classes and pass a board test. Finally, they must work in the field for at least 1,500 hours while reporting to a board-certified supervisor.
  • RBT: These individuals have earned the title of registered behavior technician (RBT). The BACB was also responsible for the creation of this certificate. Behavioral paraprofessionals are known as RBTs. They may work with students directly while a BCBA supervises their procedures, measurements, and findings. Although the plan is prepared and monitored by a BCBA, most ABA treatment is carried out by an RBT.

Additional Skills and Experience

Other qualities, apart from certificates and credentials, are important to consider when hiring an ABA therapist. Inquire about the following topics with possible therapists:

  • Approaches to treatment sessions that are unique. Various types of treatment, ranging from play-based to highly regimented, may be used by various therapists. It’s preferable to have an ABA technician who can use a variety of techniques. They may then change their approach based on the requirements of the youngster.
  • How they discover the root reasons. Providers of ABA are always on the lookout for the “why” underlying problematic behaviors. A youngster with autism will often behave out in a bad manner because they lack a certain ability. Because they are unable to articulate their needs owing to a language handicap, a kid may shout or strike. The ABA specialist may then assist them in developing that skill and therefore reducing the bad behavior. This is a crucial skill for an ABA therapist or technician to have. Inquire about how providers identify the underlying reasons of “poor” conduct.
  • Background checks are performed. You must have confidence that your kid is in capable care. Inquire about background checks for the therapist, technician, and any other members of the staff with whom your kid may interact. This kind of background check is routine procedure. Confirming this information might make you and your kid feel more secure.
  • Previous experience. Some ABA practitioners have just been practicing for longer, and their attitude to treatment (or lack thereof) may profoundly influence their approach. Invite them to talk about their experience with ABA treatment and the outcomes they’ve noticed.

Red Flags

In ABA programs, or any therapy program, parents, teachers, and caregivers should check for certain possible warning signals. Stay away from programs that:

  • There is a lack of proof. Scientific or medical research should back up the program’s usage.
  • Don’t keep track of your progress. Data about the child’s behavioral changes and ability levels should be collected on a regular basis.
  • There isn’t enough monitoring. More experienced therapists should carefully monitor new or unskilled clinical practitioners.
  • Provide general assistance. Each child’s therapy should be unique. In ABA treatment, a one-size-fits-all approach does not work.
  • Positive reinforcement should not be used. The cornerstone of contemporary ABA is this kind of reinforcement.
  • Punishment should be used. Punishment has been proven in studies to be both useless and harmful in ABA treatment.
  • Concentrate only on eliminating problematic habits. While ABA treatment lowers bad behaviors, the emphasis should be on acquiring new skills and enhancing behavior comprehension.
  • Ensure your success. Each kid is unique, and no method of treatment can guarantee that it will work for all of them. Be careful of any group or individual therapist that offers lofty claims of achievement.

As a member of a group

Your child’s treatment team will benefit from having an ABA therapist on board. However, you remain the most essential member of the team. A skilled ABA therapist understands the importance of family engagement in the child’s progress.

Make a list of the talents you’d want your youngster to acquire. While developing the treatment plan, the ABA therapist should pay attention to you and incorporate your suggestions. They may have observed many of the same behavioral issues as you, so you may talk about how to address them further. Your input will be valued by a certified ABA therapist.

ABA treatment regimens are long-term, but they don’t last forever. The ultimate objective should be to transition the learner out of treatment and into more direct use of the skills, such as in school. Your kid may attend lessons on a regular basis for years, but the number and intensity of sessions should reduce as your child gains confidence in their new abilities.

Looking for a One-on-One Relationship with an ABA Therapist?

Much depends on how well you and your kid connect with a prospective behavior technician, just as it does with any therapy.

At least a few sessions with your kid and their ABA technician should be available for you to view. Inquire about anything that makes you uncomfortable, or if any of your child’s replies do not seem to be helpful.

After you’ve checked credentials, experience, and techniques, the best way to judge a provider’s quality is to see how they interact with your kid. Inquire, be truthful, and provide the groundwork for open dialogue.

You’re laying the groundwork for a significant, long-term connection. Finding the proper fit is well worth the effort.

Frequently Asked Questions

What qualities make a good ABA therapist?

A: ABA therapists are often considered to be highly skilled professionals who have a wide range of knowledge in psychology, education and behavior therapy. They also typically hold degrees related to these fields and have certifications that prove their competency.

What does good ABA look like?

A: ABA is a chess variant in which the players alternate turns moving pieces around a board.

What are the responsibilities of an ABA therapist?

A: To provide therapy to individuals who are autistic, as well as children with other developmental disabilities.

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