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What Is a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst)?

When you’re looking for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)  therapy for your child, it is important that you choose a program that has a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst).

While there is no cure for autism, therapies have come a long way. BCBAs are essential in executing the proper treatment for your child.

What Is the Role of a BCBA?

A Board Certified Behavior Analyst is the person who will oversee your child’s ABA Therapy as a whole. The BCBA will work with all the therapists, parents, and the entire team to ensure that your child is reaching their maximum potential.

BCBAs can provide consultation on other goals with Speech Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, Teachers, and Counselors. They are able to teach skills related to adaptive functioning, daily living skills, and independence. Furthermore, they are experts at implementing programs designed to lessen challenging behaviors.

BCBAs train other team members (Registered Behavior Technicians) on programs and monitor the data to ensure that your child is making progress.

A large part of what a BCBA does is communicate and consult with everyone who is involved in the treatment process. The BCBA will coordinate so that everyone on the team is on the same page in every aspect of your child’s therapy.

Your child’s BCBA will be their advocate in a lot of sections of their life. They help clients to be the best version of themselves. Taking measures to advocate for their clients, BCBAs are often the ones who take your child’s therapy to the next level.

How Does a BCBA Get Their License?

To become a BCBA, a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in a related field (i.e., psychology, education/special education, applied behavior analysis) must be obtained. Within their master’s program, they can either get their degree specifically in applied behavior analysis or they can get it in a related field with an emphasis in applied behavior analysis. Once they finish school, they have to take an exam with the BACB (Behavior Analyst Certification Board). When they pass the exam, they are officially a BCBA.

Programs are often rigorous and overseen by the BACB to ensure that training and practice are done ethically. At least 2,000 supervised experience hours are required to take the BCBA exam

A BCBA must recertify every two years and stay up-to-date on all continuing education requirements. They must also continue to comply with ethics requirements.

To be a BCBA, one must be passionate about ABA therapy and the people they will serve.

How Many BCBAs Are There?

In the United States, as of July 1, 2021, there are about 48,000 BCBAs. This number has been trending about 5,000+ every year since 2013. This is fantastic news for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), as ABA therapy has seen a positive effect on their behavior.

A Day in the Life of a BCBA

No two days look alike to a BCBA. Your child’s BCBA will work with various people with ASD at different levels of their treatment plans. While not always front and center, your BCBA is in constant contact with the therapy team to ensure that everything is running smoothly.

They will spend time analyzing and graphing data in a way that makes sense for parents and team members. Then, decisions for your child’s treatment will be based on this data.

Face-to-face time with your child will allow the BCBA to make treatment decisions that will be best for your child. As they conduct their behavioral assessments, they will develop personalized treatment plans to improve whatever it is that your child needs help with.

Your BCBA will continue to supervise the therapists while training them in evidence-based interventions that would benefit your child.

By altering the environment your child is in, you can help give them alternatives to unwanted behavior. Of course, the environment can’t always be changed. Your child’s BCBA will do the work necessary in figuring out what is the best approach for this.

A BCBA will use the principles they have learned to treat a range of clients with conditions that affect their behavior. They identify and eliminate triggers, encourage communication and strive to understand their patient’s needs.

 What Is ABA Therapy?

ABA is a subsection of psychology that uses behavioral and learning theories in systematic ways to modify behavior. The practice is used most extensively in special education and in the treatment of autism.

A BCBA will generally use ABA therapy to treat children and adults who are on the autism spectrum. They will use data and evidence-based interventions to teach children skills. Positive reinforcement for desired outcomes of specific instances is one of the best ABA strategies for encouraging changes in behavior.

The word “consequence” often gets a bad reputation, but in ABA Therapy, the consequence isn’t always a bad thing. Consequences are what happens after the behavior. For example, consequences can be giving the client praise, a special treat, a preferred activity/toy, etc.

ABA Therapy works best because it addresses the real-life issues of each specific client. One of the primary tenants of Applied Behavior Analysis is to provide “socially valid” treatment, or treatment that is functionally important to the family and client. ABA Therapy teaches clients behaviors that are socially significant and socially valid.

Behavior analysts seek to change behavior that is important in people’s everyday lives rather than for research purposes.  The particular treatment goals are based on their importance to the individual and the individual’s family. For the intervention to be socially valid, it must have a significant, meaningful change that helps individuals navigate their environment.

You get to decide what you want your child’s BCBA to work on with your child. BCBA’s will also teach your child better ways to respond to certain circumstances so they don’t resort to maladaptive behaviors.  Teaching the clients alternative behaviors helps decrease unwanted behaviors and shows the client there are other ways to get what they want.

It is important that the BCBA works with the parents to create a consistent routine and avoiding the stimuli that negatively affect the client. Involving the entire family is a great way to strengthen bonds and create an easier home-life for those with ASD and their families.

Where Are BCBA’s Employed? 

Most of the time, BCBAs work in school districts, clinics, residential settings and autism-treatment centers. Many schools have behavior analysts on staff or have contracted with them to consult on behavioral concerns for students.

Sometimes BCBAs work in clinic settings or residential treatment settings in which they work in the homes of the clients.

Although these are the primary settings where you’ll find BCBAs working, they can also be employed by hospitals or similar facilities to assist families with youths dealing with developmental disabilities such as ASD.

How Do I Find Out More ABA Therapy?

People with ASD are all affected differently and fall within a range of severity levels. Some of the hallmark challenges that individuals with autism face include challenges with communication skills, social skills, adaptive skills and daily living skills.

If your child or loved one is on the autism spectrum and in need of treatment, it’s a good idea to schedule a meeting with a BCBA to see if ABA therapy sessions are the best form of help for your child and family. Whether you’re in need of full ABA therapy sessions or a few meetings for parent-training services, meeting with a knowledgeable BCBA can help you determine the best way to help a person with autism develop appropriate behaviors and expressions of feelings.

Contact us for a free consultation about ABA therapy at our treatment centers or our in-home services in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.