Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy focuses on helping individuals with autism acquire daily living skills that may seem out of their reach. ABA focuses on independence for the client through the science of learning. This is accomplished by thoroughly examining what challenges the client has, then creating a detailed, personalized plan to teach the person skills they can use to meet those challenges. ABA is an evidence-based approach for working with individuals of all ages, meaning there are multiple research studies confirming its effectiveness. While the end goal may be different for each client, ABA can effectively improve life for everyone it touches.
Choosing an ABA Therapy Provider
When looking for an ABA therapy provider, it is vital to ensure that the center you are working with has a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) on staff. If the provider you are selecting serves many clients, there should be more than one BCBA on the team. The BCBA designs programs and ensures that everyone gets the appropriate care. They also ensure that programs are being carried out effectively. While many factors may impact a BCBAs caseload, these individuals should not accept more than 12 clients at a time.
It’s not a sure thing that an ABA center will have a BCBA on staff. For example, some psychologists specialize in ABA but do not have the BCBA credential. Other psychologists may have experience working with behavior but do not have training related to ABA.
While credentials are necessary, they only show that a professional has met supervised training hours and passed an exam. Make sure you inquire specifically about their experience working with autistic children. It’s also imperative that you learn how long they have worked in the field. Don’t be afraid to ask for references, talk to other parents who’ve used their services, or read reviews.
Most people with autism who receive ABA services work directly with the behavioral therapist assigned to their case. These staff members may hold a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) credential or, in other cases, are in a bachelor’s program learning about psychology. When asking about RBTs or other therapists, find out how long they have been in the field and how frequently they are supervised. Ask questions like:
- Is a BCBA providing individual supervision?
- What kind of training are they receiving?
- What are their goals during supervision?
- What are some examples of training procedures?
What Is ABA Therapy?
In ABA therapy, a person’s behavior is studied, and a qualified professional works directly with that person on using their skills or teaching new ones to accomplish goals. The course of ABA therapy is driven by data. BCBAs design a treatment plan based on data from an analysis of the client’s behavior. Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) implement the program and record data on the client’s performance, which is then further analyzed by the BCBA, who can alter the treatment program if necessary.
ABA therapy for autism treatment can involve building skills in school settings, enhancing developmental capabilities, monitoring performance, and tracking progress. ABA can be performed in various environments like home, school, lessons, or a clinic.
Studies stress the importance of early intervention, for example, getting your child with autism into ABA therapy between the ages of 18 months and 5 years. Selecting the right ABA center with therapists you can trust can be challenging, with so many options available these days. Because most health insurance policies cover ABA services with an autism diagnosis, the demand for treatment has grown. However, ABA therapy providers can offer different approaches and techniques, and it can be difficult to recognize which one is best suited for your family.
It is essential to have specific criteria in mind to help you make the best decision for your child and family. Every child with autism is different and will have unique needs. What works for one child may not work for another. Use the guidelines in this article to explore your options and keep your children’s well-being at the forefront of your decision-making.
What ABA Is Not
ABA is not a 40-hour-a-week, one-on-one therapy session that starts and ends at a desk. When families hear they are receiving 20-40 hours of treatment for their child, they are relieved and nervous at the same time. ABA clients do much more than sitting at a desk drilling details. Modern ABA therapy is play-based and fun! Clients usually eagerly anticipate their therapy sessions. An autistic child’s unique needs will guide the program’s level, intensity, and style.
Good ABA therapists will work wherever you are and in more than one setting. ABA therapy can occur in any location, and the curriculum will adjust to the environment. For example, in a clinical setting, the focus may be on the neurological features of autism. In an academic environment, the focus may be on teaching and achieving educational goals that align with your state’s educational standards. It is vital to remember that ABA is not a one-size-fits-all program! ABA should always be individualized to your child, considering every aspect of their life so you can teach skills that are beneficial for everyday living.
Is ABA Safe for My Child?
Your child’s time and energy are precious, and you want to make sure they are in safe hands at all times. Background checks are standard practice for ABA therapists. They are typically performed so the therapist can work in schools, centers, and in-home. Ensure that your ABA center consistently runs background checks. If you choose to hire your own therapist, do a background check.
How Important Is Interaction for ABA Therapy?
Interaction is an essential part of ABA therapy, and it will be vital to watch how your child communicates with the therapist. In many cases, your child will be the best judge of character. While it is natural for individuals with autism to feel uncomfortable with new faces, you want to look for the potential for authentic connection. Don’t hesitate to communicate a poor fit if the therapist seems harsh, negative, or cold.
What Can You Expect from ABA Therapy?
A genuinely effective therapist can establish a positive connection with your child. If your child becomes upset when the provider arrives at the session, this is a sign that perhaps their rapport needs time or that treatment will not be as effective as it can be. Ultimately, you know your child and should decide what’s the best journey for them.
It’s essential to be informed about the policies and practices of an ABA center, including those related to preventing abuse, working with parents, and protecting privacy. Any strategy that has the potential to have a negative effect should be thoroughly examined and carefully considered.
It will also be helpful to ask how frequently you can supervise your child during ABA therapy. Most providers will have a basic protocol or an open door policy. If you notice a procedure causing your child distress, you have every right to stop the practice and question whether it should be continued. There are always options for changing behavior, so do not feel uncomfortable speaking up.
What Expectations Should I Set for My Provider?
Providers can deliver ABA therapy for many hours across extended periods. This is especially true in the early stages of receiving treatment. Keep in mind that ABA is not a magic wand. It takes lots of work from all the different people who connect with your child for them to reach their potential. Be cautious of grandiose promises and unrealistic projected outcomes. Any provider who promises an instant cure for autism should be questioned. No one can say with complete certainty what your child will be able to do in the future. Most children will make progress but at their own pace.
Factors like health, behavioral impairments, quality of the program, and ability to transfer skills to everyday life will influence how fast your child will make progress. Any autism treatment provider that promises to make your child act like they don’t have autism is making a promise no one can keep.
What Are the Benefits of ABA Therapy
The plan specially designed for your child should teach your child socially significant behavior. The skills being taught should be valuable to the child and usable in natural settings that can be carried out into adulthood. For example, if your child has been diligently working on forming a peace sign with their left hand for two years, and the skill still isn’t happening, it’s time to move on to something else. Your child can achieve so much in their lives without the mastery of that specific skill. Programming should make going to school, spending time with family, and integrating into the community more accessible. Before treatment, it might be helpful to make a list of skills you and your child value. Be specific when communicating outcomes you would like to see.
ABA Therapy and Collecting Data
Data collection should be a crucial element of all ABA programs. The RBT working with your child will collect and report data on each therapy session. All providers should be able to share their data with you in a way you can understand. If it is complex, they should always take the time to explain how to interpret the data. Providers should also be able to summarize trends that depict whether a particular treatment program is effective or not. Program adjustments can be made, when necessary, based on the data. It’s okay to ask for any clarification. If you can’t understand the data, it won’t be easy to assess progress.
Final Thoughts on Selecting an ABA Provider
While most ABA providers share core beliefs, they may have different approaches and philosophies. For example, some may be very aware of sensory and medical issues, while others will not consider them. Some will use visual supports, and others may not value them. Some will emphasize play, while others will be more rigid. Experiment and learn what works best for your child.
We hope these guidelines help you make the best decision possible for your child. As the parent, you play a massive role in choosing the services your child will receive. Any autism treatment provider that makes you feel your perspective is unimportant may not have an attitude you can value. At the core, trust your common sense and ask lots of questions. Take both positive and negative feedback into consideration, and then decide what is best for your entire family.
ABA Centers of America creates customized ABA therapy plans for children, teens, and adults with autism. We emphasize training for parents and caregivers so they can help develop their children’s skills outside treatment. Learn more about how we can help with ABA therapy. Call us at 844-969-4222 for a free, no-obligation consultation. Or contact us for more information.