The #1 Question Everyone in ABA Therapy Should Know How to Answer

The #1 Question Everyone in ABA Therapy Should Know How to Answer

By: Heyde Ramirez, MA, BCBA, LBA

Am I Making a Difference?

Congratulations! You are officially a Board Certified Behavior Analyst® (BCBA®). The day has finally come, and you’ve been handed your first case. You are excited! After all, imagine all of the possibilities. All of the potential behaviors to shape, increase, and decrease. You have trained for this and you can’t wait. You want above all else to make a difference!

You go and meet your client and their family for the first time. You are professional and courteous. You conduct a skills assessment and go home and develop goals. You are giving this case your all, as you should, and you find yourself devouring the research, ensuring that all of your treatment techniques align with what we know to be evidenced based practice. You create the data sheets. You gather your materials. You feel good, right? A sense of accomplishment that comes with knowing that you are about to change someone’s life envelopes you. You are the team captain, and you have gathered the finest crew available. You have plans to provide ongoing training to the behavior technicians and to your client’s family. You know exactly what to do and where to go as you make plans to lead your team on an expedition that will no doubt take your client on a journey towards independence and a higher quality of life. But are you REALLY making a difference? How do you even begin to answer that question?

Find Out From Others

Well, it’s not the kind of question you can or should answer on your own. Talk to the team, remember, while you may be the BCBA® on this case, you are just one part of this team. Sure, you’ve trained for this and you believe you know what your client needs most, but ultimately you are there to provide a service to your client. Is your client and their family going to be happy with the service rendered? Families have sought out ABA therapy in most instances in order to see the life of their loved ones improved. They want to see a difference. So how do you make that difference? You may have a treatment plan with beautifully written long and short term goals, but are they socially valid?

Social Validity is Everything!

What is social validity? Well plainly put, does anyone care about what you are teaching your client to do? Is it going to better their quality of life? Is the family on board with the goals in the treatment plan and how you plan to achieve those goals? Were the results noteworthy? If social validity is low…well… let’s just say… you may not be making that difference in people’s lives that you strive to make. Social validity is like that secret ingredient of that dish you love so much, and without it, no one is really going to want to go back for seconds.

As a BCBA®, you are in an amazing position, armed with powerful behavior altering tools, and within reason there is probably nothing you can’t train. Be sure to never stop asking yourself if you are making a difference. Be the BCBA® who stops and truly listens for that answer. Whenever possible, ask your client what they want to work on, and when that isn’t possible, rely on trusted caregivers to give you as much information as possible. Use evidence based practices and ensure buy-in from the team.

Remember, treatment plans should be individualized to the client and that includes the treatment techniques used during treatment. Be the BCBA® who spends the time training the entire team to teach the client relevant and functional skills that will make a difference in their lives. Be the BCBA® whose entire team can confidently say, Yes! This is making a great difference in the client’s life!

Are you interested in becoming a BCBA® with Attentive Behavior Care? Apply today!

So, You Want to be a BCBA?

So, You Want to be a BCBA?

By: Gabrielle Galto, BCBA, NYS LBA

Imagine that you are a recent graduate in psychology, you achieved your Bachelor’s degree and start looking for jobs but notice there is not much for an entry level position working in the field.

You always intended to get your masters or doctorate, but are unsure where to start. You start to look into different fields of psychology and gain an interest in cognitive behavior therapy. The more you research, the more you start to see jobs as a BCBA®, but what does that even mean?

A BCBA® is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst®, okay great! Now what does that mean exactly? Well, that means you have gone through an extensive process to obtain credentials as a certified behavior analyst. You start to gain an interest in the science behind the field of behavior analysis, learn about learning theories, measuring behavior objectively, visual analysis and ways to make further adjustments to increase success for the client’s you work with. This is when things are looking up, towards this exciting field and future to help people achieve great accomplishments for a fulfilling life, but where do you even start?

Now imagine that you are a teacher in a special education classroom and observe a paraprofessional and BCBA® working with a student. You start to notice that they take data on a daily basis, work on targeting specific behaviors in an objective way through using various techniques and strategies.

In efforts to help the student continue to progress, the BCBA® collaborates with you, discloses the behavior intervention plan (BIP), and shares some very interesting graphs that illustrates everything discussed! This is awesome right! You then learn that not only are they working on decreasing the inappropriate and maladaptive responses but then replace those behaviors with appropriate ones based on the function of the behavior. This makes so much sense, right! Over time you see your student change in ways you never thought were possible. How can I become this amazing behavior change superhero?

Being a behavior analyst is awesome, it truly is, but it is not just rainbows and butterflies all the time. It is important that you research about the process of becoming a BCBA® and look into your state licensing laws.

Just a short summary: within the past 3-5 years, a few states started to require BCBA’s® to become licensed in order to practice. Over the years, more states started to require the same, but each state holds different licensing requirements. It is important that you are aware of these requirements and the process so when you start looking for work you are not limited. I will not so much go into the licensing process, as again it varies state by state, but currently most states require you to be licensed.

This does not mean you should only become licensed because being board certified is just as important. It provides a community you become a part of and enables opportunities to grow professionally and network. It means you went through a rigorous process and intensive supervision to demonstrate a superior understanding of the science of behavior – just to name a few.

Let’s Talk About the Process

Being a behavior analyst can be very rewarding, however it is not the easiest process as it is rigorous and tedious to get through the coursework. Then, you are required to go through intensive supervision.

My first piece of advice is DO THE RESEARCH!

Start looking into graduate programs that are qualified, accredited programs that meet course requirements (e.g. NYS approved schools for NY residents). This is getting a little easier as our field grows, but be sure to check out the BACB website for a list of accredited schools and coursework.

Once you find the best fit for you, whether that be online, campus, masters or doctoral, this is when you start learning the good stuff! I highly encourage you to start to network and gain some insight into the field of behavior analysis through asking your professors questions and becoming part of different organizations.

Your professors are in the field and are a great resource, so use them!

Ask about their process, for advice and recommendations on how you can be proactive! Most of all, start gaining direct, hands on experience!

Supervision Hours and Experience

Disclaimer: This is a summary of the authors own experience and knowledge; the Behavior Analyst Certification Board did not endorse the author or agency. It is encouraged the any potential BCBA® candidate do their own research to make the best decision and visit for the most up to date requirements to become a BCBA®!

Supervision hours and experience: what is it exactly, and what should I expect?

To be completely honest, that is a loaded question. Everyone’s experience is different as not all BCBA’s® are the same, I’m serious! And as our field grows, experience standards change and are revised to better the future BCBA’s® of the world!

New experience standards were just instated on January 1, 2019, so familiarize yourself with these as the next few years (or more) supervision will encompass your life and journey into BCBA®-hood. Just know if you are already enrolled in school or just starting to look at schools and this as a career, applying the skills and knowledge from your graduate program can take a few years in itself, so really make sure this is your passion!

Make sure you choose a supervisor you are comfortable with, who will help you achieve your professional goals, and support you in the long journey to becoming a BCBA®!

How Do You Become a BCBA?

The process is not an easy one. However, after you go through the coursework and start to gain experience working under a BCBA®, you start to learn more about what it takes to truly be a BCBA®.

That said, it is not always easy finding an experienced BCBA® who can provide you with everything you need to know. It is also just as important to find other BCBA’s® who are competent in other areas that your current BCBA® is not.

What does all this mean?

Well, when you start to acquire your experience hours as per the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) states before sitting for the examination (more on this later) you are required to obtain a total of 1500 hours, but that is not all!

There are more requirements on the type of hours gained. Indirect hours include areas where you are not directly working with a client and direct hours include working directly with a client. There is also a maximum on how many direct hours you can acquire, but there is no maximum for the indirect.

Personally, I think this is actually really helpful since I probably could have acquired all 1500 hours directly, but then I would have never gotten experience creating treatment plans, supervising, writing up protocols, conducting assessments, etc. Also, the experience gained should include each of the Task List numbers.

The Task List!

The Task List is such a helpful tool that ensures your experience is full bodied encompassing many parts of what being a behavior analyst truly entails. I had fun with it, but I really just love this field so that may just be me!

Advice: Make sure to discuss with your supervisor how you will complete each task list number. If there are some items that you are unable to get direct experience for, make sure to discuss what other ways to achieve them. This could be through a second supervisor or role playing or asking for additional cases that may help gain those experience hours. This can vary on the work environment you are in, but it is important to go over these concerns from the start so you are not stuck later on.

Lastly, once you complete your hours make sure you discuss a way to further expand and develop yourself professionally because this is a field that requires us to continually grow professionally.

Even BCBA’s® who have a ton of experience have their own areas they are more competent in. It is vital to know what those are for yourself starting off. However, this does not mean that you cannot take on cases if you have limited experience. I suggest you talk with your supervisors about how to gain continued support and supervision so you can take on new and exciting cases.

The BCBA Exam

After you complete your hours, this is when you can submit to take the BIG BCBA® EXAM!

I was so nervous to do so. I over prepared, but I am glad I did! I honestly do not have much to say on this other than to take advantage of all the great resources!

I used Behavior Development Solutions (BDS), an exam prep and curriculum for a behavior analyst in training. They were great! (No, I am not being paid to tell you that!) They provided me with many quizzes that helped ensure fluency and maintenance of skills.

It was such an amazing resource, and I highly recommend using all the resources they provide. Also, pace yourself to avoid getting overwhelmed when you get closer to the exam date. Working on ways to further increase your fluency of skills can be something to discuss with your supervisor too. Remember, he or she is there to help you achieve your goals too!

There are some other great resources through social media that you can find on Instagram like ABA wizard, which I still follow. There is also ABA study buddy. They hold webinars to help prepare for the exam. ABA wizard also has an app that you can download.

Once you feel ready to set a date for the exam, make sure you give yourself enough time to get through all the modules if you are using BDS or any other prep program.

If you do not feel ready to set a date in stone, it’s okay – just remember that you can only take the test 4 months of the year. Look at when those are, and try to determine a date from there Then, use behavior analysis to self-manage, use principles of reinforcement, and other methodologies to increase your skill set (precision teaching is also a great way to increase fluency)!

And lastly: remember, you can do this!

Hope this helps any potential or future BCBA’s® of the world!

Good luck to everyone!


Are you interested in becoming a BCBA® with Attentive Behavior Care? Apply today!

How to Land a Job as a Behavior Analyst

How to Land a Job as a Behavior Analyst

By: J. M. Coimbra, MS, BCBA, LBA

If you’re looking for an ABA therapy job or how to become an ABA therapist, then you’re in the right place. Beyond dressing to impress and having the right credentials, there’s a lot more to acing your interview. What’s involved? Here are four ways to “wow” your interviewer and land the job you’ve always wanted.

1 – Be Approachable

One of the first things taught in my master’s program was to never use our language with parents, families, teachers, community members, friends, doctors, occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, spouses, and anyone else who is not also a behavior analyst. In the interview you think, “I can use the language now!” but, remember you are showcasing your abilities here. Take a moment to show how you can talk about escape extinction in a way that is neither robotic nor terrifying. Let your interviewer know that you’re compassionate and cordial with clients, while at the same time fulfilling your duties as a behavior analyst.

2 – Provide Data

If you don’t love raw bits of data, then you’re in the wrong field. Seduce your interviewer with some data – maybe an entire folder with your certification records, degrees, writing sample (e.g., mock behavior intervention plans or progress reports), behavior change graphs you’re most proud of (that you obtained consent to share), letters of recommendation, your CV/resume, and a cover letter. Back up all the self-reporting you do in the interview with some clear and concise evidence that make it difficult for your interviewer to doubt you.

3 – Respect Your Role

A small change to a train track can cause derailment, necessary route change, or have no effect. We are that small change. In an interview, it is wise to let your interviewer know exactly where you are on the railroad and what possibilities exist. Convey your confidence that you know what to do to shape an amazing repertoire, but at the first sign of derailment you also know what to do. You know whom to consult and from where to seek assistance. You know that sometimes interventions don’t work and if you haven’t produced results one way, then you’ll try another. Humility and confidence make an attractive combination.

4 – Promise Integrity

Integrity is one of those things that is hard to demonstrate in an interview, so I propose you just express it explicitly. Give your interviewer confidence that whatever you do you will do under the guidance of the Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s good-and-always-getting-updated Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts. When in doubt, fall back on science. Show them what you can when it comes to your integrity from the time you apply and submit a cover letter (in which you describe all of these amazing behaviors you have in your repertoire) and promise to follow up, actually follow up, and in the interview give examples of each of these skills. And in the end (or is it beginning?), work in your new position with integrity.

If you’re looking for an amazing work environment and a real opportunity to become the best behavioral analyst you can be, consider applying for a job with Attentive Behavior Care today.

How to Become a Great Behavior Analyst in 2019

How to Become a Great Behavior Analyst in 2019

By: J. M. Coimbra, MS, BCBA, LBA

Great behavior analysts make socially significant behavior change by altering environments. It might sound easy, but doing it isn’t so simple.

Do you think you have what it takes to become a great behavior analyst in 2019? Here’s a mini “task analysis” of critical components I think you’ll need to make that happen.

1 – Cute Doesn’t Count

Adorable children, funny topographies, and charming smiles shouldn’t affect you as a behavior analyst, when you’re “on the job.” It’s hard to ignore the chubby-cheeked face of a formerly “nonverbal” five-year-old who is hugging your leg and says, “you melt my heart,” in response to denied access to a preferred edible, but it’s what we may have to do in order to do our job right. Follow through! Your client has everyone else in the world to give in to maladaptive behaviors, so we must remember that we are there to make changes that ultimately provide our clients with greater opportunity to contact reinforcement in their lives.

2 – Love the Science

If you’re not already in it because of the science, then learn to love it. The science of behavior analysis will always be the rock you can lean on when your behavior analysis colleagues and friends fail you. Think, “What would Skinner do?” (experiment!) or “What would Malott do?” (hit them with a rolling pin!*), and probably best, “What will JABA tell me? (everything!, or see “What would Skinner do?”). A good supervisor will want to hear, “I want to help people,” but a great one will want to know you want to do what you were trained to do via an undergraduate degree, a master’s degree, and hundreds to thousands of supervision hours – science!

3 – Stay Humble

Out from the pigeon lab, we emerge into the natural environment. What could go wrong? Think bootleg reinforcement, extraneous reinforcement, and rule-governed behavior just to name a few. Just because you predict a solution, doesn’t mean it’ll work out. Come up with a backup plan and don’t be shy about it. Being the professional and utilizing another approach if the data don’t reflect the required change are not mutually exclusive! As behavior analysts we rely on observation, analysis, generality, and have an ethical responsibility to stand by those tenets of behavior analysis. Let’s do it.

4 – Expect Variability From Everyone Except Yourself

Rarely will the performance of our clients be as precisely controlled and stable as Carr and Durand (1985**; How’d they do that?), nor will the performances of the intervening team be perfect. What do we do? We remain consistent and stable as a model and do our best to always help. Be prepared for hiccups, hurdles, and the occasional headbutt (figurative and literal). Support your client, the family, and the paraprofessionals as the environment ever-changes due to your influence and all other possible, even if not probable, factors.

5 – Highlight Your Professionalism

By now, we know we are not babysitters, so show that. Model to your team and families what it means to hold up your end of an intervention no matter how difficult it is to do so. Let the team know that you know how to make behavior change happen ethically and with the client’s best interests “at mind.” Remind the team that as hard as it may be – “cute doesn’t count!” and that you’re dedicated to making sustainable change to improve the lives of each end every one of your clients.

If you’re looking for an amazing work environment and a real opportunity to become the best behavioral analyst you can be, consider applying for a job with Attentive Behavior Care today.

*Malott, R. W. (1972). Contingency Management in Education & Other Equally Exciting Places. Kalamazoo, MI: Behaviordelia.

**Carr, E. G., & Durand, V. M. (1985). Reducing behavior problems through functional communication training. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 18 (2), 111-126. doi: 10.1901/jaba.1985.18-111