How Does ABA Therapy Work?
ABA therapy is used alongside speech therapy, occupational therapy, and support from your child’s pediatrician to help improve their life. It is one of the most common interventions used in children with autism.
ABA focuses on using positive reinforcement to address the “A-B-Cs” of behavior, or antecedent, behavior, and consequence. ABA therapists work with children to identify what happens before a behavior, what the behavior is, and how others around them respond. When children exhibit a positive behavior change, they are rewarded, which reinforces the change.
What Does an ABA Therapist Do?
An ABA therapist observes and assesses behavior. Then, they will develop an individualized plan to increase helpful behaviors and decrease behaviors that could be harmful.
ABA therapists often work on developing social skills in children, including:
- Appropriate play
- Identifying social cues
- Responding to a person speaking to them
- Following directions
- Identifying emotions
- Taking turns
There are four main types of ABA providers you may work with, depending on how the ABA therapist’s practice is set up.
- Registered Behavior Technician
A registered behavior technician (RBT) is responsible for implementing care plans with your child. This means that your therapy sessions will usually be with a registered behavior technician. They work under the guidance and supervision of a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).
The daily responsibilities of a registered behavior technician include:
- Following behavioral health plans developed by the BCBA
- Participating in meetings and counseling sessions
- Assisting children with daily tasks
- Fostering childrens’ social abilities
- Observing children during sessions to collect data
- Reducing interfering behaviors and teaching new skills
- Informing parents and caregivers about session findings
Registered behavior technicians must have a high school diploma or equivalent and complete 40 hours of training under a BCBA professional. They must also pass the RBT Competency Assessment and a written examination.
- Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst
A Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) has similar duties to a BCBA. However, BCaBAs are only required to have a bachelor’s degree, while BCBAs have a graduate degree. BCaBAs can supervise registered behavior technicians, help collect data, and support the BCBA they work under.
In addition to schooling, BCaBAs must also complete over 1,000 hours of supervised fieldwork under a BCBA and pass the board certification exam.
- Board Certified Behavior Analyst
BCBAs are most likely what you think of when you think about an ABA therapist. BCBAs are responsible for overseeing a team of RBTs and BCaBAs who work directly with children and collect data. The BCBA then uses this data to develop or change care plans as needed.
To become a BCBA, you must have at least a master’s degree and complete 1,500 to 2,000 hours of supervised fieldwork under other BCBAs or licensed psychologists. After their training, they must pass the board certification exam.
- Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Doctoral
BCBAs who have doctoral degrees are known as BCBA-Ds. Other than a difference in education, they perform similar duties to BCBAs.
BCBA-Ds must complete postdoctoral work in applied behavior analysis and 500 hours of supervised fieldwork. After their training, they must pass the board certification exam.
Where Can You Find an ABA Therapist?
If you are interested in finding an ABA therapist near you, you can start by asking your pediatrician. They will likely have recommendations for providers in your area, or they may give you a referral.
Other resources you can use to search for ABA therapists in your area include:
- BACB Certificant Registry through the Behavioral Analyst Certification Board
- Autism Support through the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
- ABA Therapy Provider Directory through the Behavioral Health Center of Excellence, has list of providers by state
- Autism Care Network through Autism Speaks
Before choosing a therapist, be sure to call your insurance company and confirm they are in your network. ABA therapy can be expensive, but most states require insurance companies to cover these treatments for autism.
How Can You Connect With an ABA Therapist?
Your child is unique, and you want to be sure that an ABA therapist specifically supports their needs. When looking for a provider, ask about what areas they specialize in and age groups they often work with. ABA therapists can work in schools, clinics, or come to your home. You can also ask about their team and who will be working directly with your child—whether it is an RBT or a BCaBA.
After choosing an ABA therapist to work with, you will likely fill out an information packet about your child’s medical information and history. They may ask questions about previous therapies you have tried and what rewards or activities your child enjoys to help ensure they have a positive experience.
Once all of the information is gathered, you will meet with the BCBA to create your child’s care plan and discuss the therapy schedule. As a parent or caregiver, you are an important part of the ABA therapist’s work by providing feedback throughout the process. With continuous work, ABA therapy can be extremely beneficial for children with autism.
Finding an ABA therapist near you who also meets your child’s needs can seem like a daunting task, but there are resources available to help. For parents or caregivers looking for at-home ABA therapy, Songbird Therapy can help.
Songbird Therapy is a technology-enabled provider setting a higher standard for children’s autism care. With a deeply passionate team and innovative technology, we’re building a world where every child can access world-class care at home, uniquely tailored to them.