How to Find a Good ABA Therapist for a Child with Autism

Introduction

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Therapy is the most widely accepted treatment for children with autism. It’s considered the “gold standard” of treatment because it’s been proven, by several scientific studies conducted over the last forty years, to result in significantly better clinical outcomes than other therapy approaches. ABA therapy vastly outperforms other interventions in improving a broad range of skills that commonly challenge children with ASD. There is no doubt that for many children with autism, ABA therapy can help them achieve their maximum potential for independence and to enhance their quality of life.

For the best treatment outcomes you need qualified, experienced ABA therapists. Our objectives are to help you understand what ABA therapy involves and to guide your search for a quality, reputable ABA therapy provider. This blog answers the following questions:

  • What is ABA therapy?
  • Who provides ABA therapy?
  • How do I choose a good ABA therapy provider?
    • What makes a high quality ABA therapy provider?
    • What questions will help me evaluate the quality of an ABA therapy provider?
  • What are trusted resources for a referral to quality ABA therapy providers?

What is ABA Therapy?

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is based on the scientific understanding of how specific behaviors are learned, how they can be changed and how they are used to navigate everyday life. The definition of “behavior” is broad and refers to skills and actions such as communicating, focusing attention, controlling behavior impulses and self-care. ABA therapy follows a systematic process to develop and shape behaviors:

  1. Identify target behaviors: Target behaviors are those that are the focus of therapy – behaviors that are needed for functional daily life. As examples, this can mean replacing disruptive behaviors such as tantrums, with easier, socially acceptable behaviors, learning how to communicate using verbalization and/or learning to use the potty.
  2. Assess and Develop Treatment Plan: An ABC assessment is completed at home and/or in other relevant settings by an ABA therapist. The objective of the assessment is to understand why a behavior is happening and how it can be modified.
    • The “A” stands for the Antecedent, or what happened in the few minutes before the target behavior occurred. The trigger can originate from the environment, a person or an internal stimulus.
    • “B” refers to the specifics of the target Behavior – how did the child respond or not respond
    • The “C” is the Consequences of the behavior – what happened immediately after the behavior –was there positive reinforcement, no response or an inappropriate response
    • The treatment plan is tailored to the needs of the child and the routines and support in the home.
    • 3. Implement the plan
  1. • Desired behaviors are taught in incremental steps that are observable and measureable. The new skill is practiced repeatedly and in increasingly normalized settings and situations.
  2. • Positive reinforcement follows each success.
  3. 4. Monitor progress, revise plan as needed
  4. • ABA therapy is a data driven therapy. Therapists track progress on an ongoing basis and modify the treatment plan accordingly.

Who Provides ABA Therapy?

ABA therapy is implemented by a specially trained team directed by a behavior analyst and implemented by one or more therapists working 1:1 with the child.

A Board-Certified-Behavior Analyst (BCBA) designs and leads the ABA treatment plan

• A BCBA is a master’s or Doctoral level (BCBA-D) trained professional with education and training in applied behavioral analysis.

• Certification by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) assures that the BCBA has met strict guidelines for education and experience and has been trained in ethics and professional conduct.

• Responsibilities of the BCBA are to:

o Assess the child

o Formulate treatment goals

o Measure progress

o Supervise the behavior therapists

o Advocate for the child across the treatment team

o Assure a discharge plan is in place

A behavior therapist implements the treatment plan. The education, experience and certifications for behavior therapists is varied. They are referred to with different titles including Registered Behavior Technician (RBT), behavior technician or behavior therapist. They are trained and supervised by a BCBA.

• Responsibilities of the therapist are to:

o Implement the plan working 1:1 with the child at home and in other locations such as a clinic or school

o Track and measure progress and collaborate with the BCBA

o Support the family and other caregivers to ensure consistent application of the treatment plan throughout daily life

Credentials are a good indicator that you’ve found qualified and experienced therapists. There are other qualifications of a good ABA therapy team. Given the amount of time therapists spend with your child and in your home, you want therapists who are compatible with your family. It’s also important that your ABA therapy team work collaboratively with other professionals involved in your child’s care, that they communicate well and are open to dialogue and problem solving.

How Do I Choose a Good ABA Therapy Provider?

A. Key Elements of a High Quality ABA Therapy Provider

The best clinical outcomes result from an ABA therapy program that has six key elements.

1. Intensity of treatment

Treatment time is intensive, 20-40 hours/week, depending upon the needs of the child. Typically more treatment hours are needed for a young, pre-school child for whom goals address several areas of development. For older children therapy goals can be limited to particular challenges requiring less time intensive treatment.

2. Consistency of treatment

It’s important to have the same therapist(s) deliver treatment each week which means you want a company that does a good job hiring, training and keeping its staff.

3. Early intervention

Learning positive behaviors in the early years serves as a strong foundation for better treatment outcomes in the future.

4. Using quality ABA therapists

Credentialed therapists is essential. Beyond that, you want staff experienced in treating the particular needs and challenges of your child. Quality is also dependent on ongoing training to keep staff current and to expand capabilities.

5. Intensive supervision

Behavior therapists working 1:1 in your home need to be trained by the BCBA on implementing your child’s unique treatment plan. Ongoing, regular supervision and mentoring is required.

6. Parental Expertise

Parents are active participants in treatment from start to finish. Behavior therapists train parents in how to implement behavior strategies as parents are pivotal in transferring skills from therapy sessions to daily life. Parents also contribute to the discharge plan.

B. What Questions Will Help Me Evaluate the Quality of an ABA Therapy Provider?

The following questions are derived from the key elements of a quality ABA therapy provider as described above.

1. How many BCBA’s do you have on staff?

• Are they licensed with the BACB?

2. How many behavioral therapists do you have on staff?

• How long have they been with your company?

3. What are your hiring and training protocols for behavior therapists?

4. How frequently does the BCBA provide direct supervision of the therapist?

• Is the supervision in-person?

5. How many therapists will be working with my child?

6. How many hours of treatment per week can you provide?

7. Will my child have a therapy team that is experienced working with children his/her age?

• Do you have age restrictions?

• Is there an age out period?

8. Do you have restrictions on the types of clients you treat?

9. Will you provide treatment in different settings like home, school, residential, community, hospital?

10. How involved are parents in your treatment program?

• Do we have a say in the treatment goals/discharge plan?

• Do we get training from the behavior therapist?

11. What type of insurance do you accept?

Trusted Resources for Referrals

Your pediatrician can help you find a good ABA therapy provider. Other sources of information include Facebook groups for parents, autism associations such as Autism Speaks, Autism Partnership, and Autism Alliance. Your insurance provider or county Medicaid office also provides information on ABA therapy providers and can make referrals.

Conclusion

ABA therapy is a well-established, scientifically proven intervention that is widely used to treat children with ASD. A good ABA therapy program can transform the lives of children with autism and in so doing, improve quality of life for the entire family. To learn more about ABA therapy in Atlanta, GA and to schedule a consultation with a Board-Certified Behavior-Analyst (BCBA), visit our website at www.propelautism.com or call us at 1-(404) 593 0078. We accept several private insurance plans and Medicaid and we do not have a waitlist.

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