You’ve decided that you want your child to receive Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services. Maybe the pediatrician recommended it, maybe it was a friend, or maybe you have been researching ways to help your child. However it happens, you are most likely asking yourself, how do I find the right fit for my child, for my family. If you are lucky enough to have several different providers in your area, you should be on the look-out for several key factors when it comes to an ABA provider. Here are some things to look for, and some questions to ask a potential provider.
- Qualifications and Experience:The first most important thing to look for is if the provider employs a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). BCBA’s are specifically trained to develop, manage, train and implement ABA programs. Be on the lookout for companies who have non-BCBAs managing cases. Also, “BCBA Candidate” is not an official or recognized title. Most states now are also requiring BCBAs to obtain a license, so check with your state to determine whether this is required.
When it comes to experience, ask how much experience the behavior analysts have. What is their expertise? Do they have BCBAs whose skill set match with what you and your family needs? Don’t be afraid to ask these types of questions, as BCBAs are required to obtain additional training in areas that they do not have experience before providing treatment.
- Direct Care Staff:When it comes to who will likely be providing the majority of the program implementation with your child, direct care staff is very important. Many providers require direct care staff to obtain their own certification through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) called a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT). This certification ensures that behavior technicians receive a minimum amount of supervision per month, where individuals without a certification don’t have to meet those standards.
Here are some questions you may want to ask. How much training do the BCBAs provide before direct care staff can work on their own with clients? Do they have to pass any sort of assessment beforehand? Each week or month, how often will a supervisor come in to their session to monitor how they are implementing programs?
- Data Collection: When it comes to ABA services, data is a key factor in monitoring your child’s progress.As a parent you will want to be involved in this. These things should be communicated openly to you, and data should be provided consistently and regularly to you. You will also want to make sure that your BCBA explains what the data is showing and what it means for your child.
You may want to ask: How often will you be provided reports with data? At what point will the BCBA make changes to your child’s program if progress isn’t being made?
- Parent Education: Although your provider may be providing the majority of ABA services to your child, you will want to enquire about Parent Education. ABA works best if it is implemented consistently and involves all individuals who interact with the child. Some providers (and insurance companies) require that the parent attend parent education sessions regularly as they will want to involve you in the child’s programming as much as possible.
Some questions that you may want to ask are: What does parent education look like for that provider? Is there a parent education curriculum they use? Is there an opportunity to receive additional parent education sessions if requested?
- Openness and Communication:This is something that you will likely have to assess when you meet with potential providers. ABA is an intensive therapy that requires a lot of communication between providers and the family. This should be an important part of your decision to choose a provider. You have to feel that your provider cares about you and your child and the only thing that matters to your provider is that your child makes progress. If you don’t feel these things, from the very beginning, don’t go there. Find a provider that does give you this level of comfort and connection.
Somethings you may want to ask include: What is the primary mode of communication that they use? How frequent will the child’s BCBA make contact with you? If you request a meeting, how quickly will that be possible?
- Specialties:Before you visit a potential provider, think about what goals you have for your child.It will be important to communicate this to them during your initial meeting. You will want to ensure that the things that you want to address are things that the BCBA has experience with. The BCBA should be open and honest about if they are familiar with any goals that you have, and if they have implemented them before.
You can ask: Have you treated a child my child’s age before? What is your specialty? Have you worked with ________ before? You will want to make sure that the BCBA provider you choose is a good fit for you and your families’ goals.
- Ethics: The field of Behavior Analysis consists of a strict code of ethics that all board-certified individuals must follow.This code of ethics gives practitioners a variety of guidelines to follow. This code should be communicated openly to families so that they are clear on what to expect from their provider. The provider should provide clear expectations for all parties involved before therapy begins so that all parties are in agreement. There are even things that providers can do to ensure that they are in good standing with the code of ethics, such as applying for and obtaining a certification to become a Behavioral Health Center of Excellence.
You may want to look up the code of ethics that all BCBAs follow located on: www.bacb.com. Some questions you should ask include: What do you do to help insure that all parts of the code of ethics are followed? What does the code mean for me as a parent? What can I do if I disagree with something that the code of ethics says?
I hope you have found these points helpful and that it helps you decide which provider will be the right fit for your family.