By: Yvonne Pallone, M.Ed, BCBA, LBA
You finished your coursework, your practicum, and are anxiously awaiting the up to 45 days for the result of your test to see if you have earned the prestigious certification for your field.
Wait, you no longer get delayed reinforcement with this per the new BCBA® testing updates. Once you see that passed status on your portal, you are prepared to take on a full caseload of varying ages and behaviors and the whole world that ABA therapy has to offer, right?
The certification brings you into the fold, but your background and experiences bring you your employment and cases. Maybe you are collecting your forms, your transcripts, and all other required documents to send in to sign up for your testing window?
Whether you have taken your test or are studying in between reading blog posts for the next testing window, here are 5 helpful tips for soon-to-be BCBAs®.
1 – Self-Assessment
Self-assessment reflects the skills and experience you currently have versus the skills you may still need. Depending on where you participated in your coursework, practicum, and mentorship provided,you may have broadened or narrowed your scope of practice. Be honest about your initial skillset and do not confuse your comfort zone with the scope of practice.
This is an ever-evolving field, and expanding your repertoire is a required task. This brings me to my second tip.
2 – Continuing Education
The BACB requires you as a practitioner to maintain your certification by completing 32 Continuing Education Units (CEU) in the two-year cycle including 4 units of Ethics (BACB 2020). Even before taking the test, take advantage of conferences and seminars. Conferences are a great way to learn updated strategies and about new research being performed to enhance or create additional resources in the field of ABA therapy. It is also a great way to start shopping around for the service providers you can look to for employment. Many companies will have tables that can be visited. This will let you get an abbreviated version of the company culture and will make you aware of the many providers locally and across the nation.
There are large providers and smaller providers, and it is easy to be overwhelmed. It is important to reflect on your self-assessment and find out where you fit in. That brings us to tip number 3.
3 – Understand the Company Culture
After I passed my test, I received so many emails from companies across the country seeking BCBAs®. I was promised living allowances, moving bonuses, and multiple opportunities to enroll in every doctorate program in America. I was already employed, but just like any other newly certified BCBA®, had to see if the grass was greener. Research companies.
From 2010-2017, the need for BCBAs® has increased by 800% (BACB 2018). This means a lot of opportunities for employment, but the need for you to strongly consider how you want your career to look. Every position will have stipulations on hour requirements, salary, caseload requirements, population served, and required knowledge. Perhaps research is your driving force. This will also change how you look at prospective employers.
Whatever path you choose, company culture can direct your career and further your experience. You also need to abide by the ethical code of our field, which brings us to tip number 4.
4 – Honesty is the Best Policy
When choosing employment, be honest about your background and experience. Keep this honesty when taking cases as well. Learn to say, “No.” This is not a field where winging it is recommended. This is a human services field, and the impact of services rendered directly relates to the evidence-based practices of ABA. “No” is not an excuse. “No” should be said with reasons such as: “No, I would need additional training,” “No, I have never worked with a self-injurious client,” or “No, this case doesn’t fit within my current schedule and caseload.”
There can be pressure to take on more than you can serve or outside your scope of practice. By saying “No,” you are allowing for compromise. Maybe it is taking a training in that area of service (i.e. social skills, feeding programs, assessments etc.). Maybe it is swapping a case from your current caseload that is stable to one that needs your expertise. Being honest is better than being overwhelmed.
Our position consumes a lot of our time within client visits, training, and at home or the office developing programs and treatment plans. We also tend to be on call for our families, staff, and clinical directors/employers even when we are home in our pajamas. This brings me to tip #5.
5 – Time Management and Work/Life Balance
Human services fields tend to have a high attrition rate. “Low job satisfaction and burnout are common among those providing behavioral services potentially leading to absenteeism, turnover, low standards of service, and poor health outcomes” (Plantiveau Et. Al 2017). My Google calendar is updated almost daily with demands for supervision, team meetings, collaboration, and general duties. This also includes my self-care, mom time, and other daily activities. I couldn’t believe when I started to note activities outside of work in my calendar myself. I reached burnout near year 2 in my initial renewal cycle. It is very easy to be so caught up in the needs of your clients that you forget to eat, get enough sleep, or plan your life. Time management skills are a must in order to survive our everyday rigor.
There is a huge satisfaction when you see the positive impact on the families we serve, or in research breakthroughs. It is reflected in the data we interpret, the social validity in our parent reports, and every small or large skill attained and generalized by our clients. Participating in the human services field is a love/hate relationship. I know myself personally, I survive on an extraordinary amount of coffee and the feedback of my team and families. Whatever brought you to the field, remind yourself of that. For some, it’s because of the firsthand knowledge and struggle of learning how to parent or give care to a special needs individual. For others, it is improving the current strategies. Whatever brought you here, focus on this and push through those first few years until you find your stride.
- Behavior Analyst Certification Board. (2018). US employment demand for behavior analysts: 2010-2017. Littleton, CO: Author
- Behavior Analyst Certification Board. (2020). Board Certified Behavior Analyst https://www.bacb.com/bcba/
- Plantiveau, C., Dounavi, K., & Virues-Ortega, J. (2018). High levels of burnout among early- career board-certified behavior analysts with low collegial support in the work environment. European Journal of Behavior Analysis, 19(2), 195-207
Are you interested in joining the Attentive Behavior Care team? Apply today!
By Ellen Barnett, MA, BCBA, LBA
Pairing, or building rapport with a learner, is an essential component of ABA therapy. A positive relationship between the instructor and the learner sets the stage for successful ABA sessions and enables our clients to reach their optimal outcomes. Why then is pairing so often overlooked or not sufficiently implemented? In my experience as a supervisor, I have found that both instructors and parents may view pairing as unproductive play. Everyone is anxious for the “real” (re: structured and teacher-led) instruction to start!!! But pairing is just as important, maybe even more so, than all the programs we will eventually implement!!! Pairing develops the strong foundation upon which all good instruction is built. Without this strong foundation, we will not be effective providers of ABA therapy. Additionally, pairing never ends. Even after the foundation is built, we need to maintain it and keep it strong!!!
What is Pairing?
Very simply, pairing is the process by which you connect yourself (pair yourself) with all the learner’s favorite items and activities (reinforcers). Through these repeated connections, you take on the value of all the good stuff. You are now the ultimate reinforcer or the giver of all good things!!! If you take the time to pair with your learner, he will see you as he sees his favorite toys and activities. He will not only accept your presence, he will want to engage with you, and will be more likely to comply with instructional demands. Does your learner walk away from you or attempt to escape instruction frequently? If so, it’s time to pair!
How Do I Pair?
Pairing can be challenging. The following rules will help get you started and on your way to providing quality ABA therapy.
Rule 1: Have Fun!!!
If you are not enjoying yourself, odds are your learner isn’t either. Have fun and let your learner’s motivation lead the way. If he is lining up cars, join in!!! Start rolling the cars around and making fun sounds, “Vroom!” “Beep-Beep!” He may follow suit. If he likes Baby Shark, sing it often and get silly!!! Bounce and dance with him. Make Baby Shark more fun because you are part of it! Does your learner like the swings? Push him on the swing. Try tickling him while he’s on the swing, pushing him high in the air, or spinning him around. Make swinging more fun because you are part of it! Whatever your learner is interested in doing, join in and make it more fun because you are part of it! Feel free to introduce new ways of playing with the learner’s favorite items. Be enthusiastic, be playful, and embed lots of fun and smiles into your sessions!!!
Rule 2: No Turn-Offs!!!
What is a turn-off? A turn-off is anything you say which requires the learner to respond in a specific way. Do not make demands, give directions, or ask questions. Do narrate and comment. Instead of asking the question, “What color car do you have?” say, “You have a red car” or “I love playing cars!” What may seem like a harmless question to you, may feel like a pop quiz to your learner. Instead of directing the learner, “Look at my plane” or “Go fly the plane” say, “Wow, my plane is flying so high!” During pairing, there should be no requirements of any kind placed on the learner. The learner is allowed to access all his favorite items and activities for free!!!
Rule 3: Restrict Access to Reinforcers!!!
So things are going well and pairing is well underway. Your learner is running toward you and eager to engage with you. Now it’s time to restrict access to reinforcers. This means you will be in control of all reinforcing items/activities and your learner will be required to follow easy demands to access the items/activities. Now that you are familiar with your learner’s highly preferred items, bring a few of your own to the session. Odds are your learner will find the novel items appealing. Introduce an item. Once the learner demonstrates motivation, perhaps by reaching or pointing to the item, require an easy response before delivering that item. For instance, if you have a ball (and your learner is vocal), require him to say, “ball” before giving him the ball. Or, require the learner to “Sit down” before allowing access to the crayons you brought. This can work for a variety of activities. Maybe your learner likes when you lift him into the air. You can require him to first say, “Up.” Or, you can require your learner to “Give me five” before getting the tickles he enjoys. Remember to keep your demands simple so that your learner can easily access his reinforcers.
Rule 4: Play Starts With You and Stays With You!!!
Start engaging your learner in the area you plan to do most of your instruction. Make the instructional area more fun and exciting than any other area in the learner’s environment. Do this by limiting access to reinforcement outside of the instructional area. When the learner is with you in the instructional area, he gets bubbles, tickles, music, piggyback rides, etc. These reinforcers disappear when the learner opts to leave the instructional area. But they come back as soon as he returns. If the reinforcer is a toy, make certain your learner does not remove it from the instructional area. Perhaps you have brought a MagnaDoodle and your learner cannot get enough of it. You are ooohing and aaahing as your learner scribbles when he decides to take the MagnaDoodle to another room. Let the learner know he is free to go to another room, but the MagnaDoodle stays with you. By doing this, you set up yourself and the instructional area as the learner’s most reinforcing option. Your learner’s choice should be reinforcement with you or no reinforcement at all.
Pairing Never Ends!
There is no timetable, schedule, or formula for pairing. It may take a few hours, a few days, or a few weeks, depending on the learner. But once you have determined that you are sufficiently paired with your learner, do not stop pairing!!! Pairing should be built into every session of ABA therapy. Pair at the top of your sessions; pair before task demands; pair toward the end of your sessions. In other words, embed pairing into all your sessions. Alternate pairing and instruction (leaning more heavily on pairing) so that the learner will not be able to differentiate between the two. This ensures that your learner will want to stay with you for longer and longer periods of time. This increases the likelihood that your learner will choose to engage with you and comply with your directions. Ultimately, this builds the positive rapport needed to foster a healthy therapeutic environment where new skills are learned.
Are you interested in joining the Attentive Behavior Care team? Apply today!
By: Gabrielle Galto, MS, BCBA, NYS LBA
In many fields it is important, even required to partake in continuing education courses. I believe in order to be successful and grow as a professional it is necessary to have a scholar-practitioner outlook; meaning, even after obtaining your degree it is important to continue to seek learning opportunities and educational growth as a practitioner.
Of course, it is also a requirement within the field of applied behavior analysis (ABA) as both a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and Board-Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA). Therefore, it is not only necessary but essential to maintaining one’s credentials. Unfortunately, this does not mean that practitioners within the field see the importance of continuing education courses or engage in self-study, which is the main focus of what I would like to speak upon.
What is Self-Study?
Self-study, what is it exactly? Does it include continuing education courses? Definitely! But isn’t it really just studying by yourself, well maybe? But I believe it is more than that. I believe that within our practice it is important to engage in not just what is required, but truly go out and seek opportunities to learn. As a scholar-practitioner some ways to engage in self-study can include partaking in relevant webinars, studying texts from previous courses, conducting literature reviews, and reading up on new studies and findings within the field of behavior analysis, which is very important within our growing field! Self-study can go a step further by taking a closer look into the subject or area you are learning. Truly becoming not just a researcher but your own teacher. This can be such a huge advantage as a clinician to ensure the most appropriate and individualized interventions are provided, expanding our skills and competence on a more daily basis can further reinforce past knowledge through daily practice.
Self-study is a way of learning without relying on others to directly teach or train as a way to strengthen one’s own knowledge. For example, when working with a client you hold the credentials and are competent with the areas required, however notice a lack of progress and decide to conduct a literature review within the past 5 years. When doing so you learn a more effective, empirically evidenced based intervention package, opposed to the same cookie-cutter techniques typically used. This can then lead to teaching oneself how to set up the intervention package, train your technicians or practitioners on the specific strategies and finally apply the new treatment plan with your client. Self-study is not just more convenient but a practical way for a clinician to learn new or improve one’s skills at a much faster rate than other methods. It is not to say that a more structured way of learning will never be needed. For ethical reasons it could be required for a clinician to seek out further support or training when expertise is needed in order to become competent. Nevertheless, as a professional engaging in self-study prior to seeking additional support from other colleagues can exemplify initiative as a resourceful and self-driven professional.
Implementing the Technique
Make sure that prior to implementing any technique, strategy or behavior change procedure that you follow the BACB ethical guidelines, which could be a whole other blog post in and of itself! Applying new strategies, findings, and techniques can further provide our clients with the most successful outcomes.
The opposing outlook of only doing the bear minimum, which I assume if you are reading this then you are already part of the other side who are self-driving and motivated to grow within the field! Which I love! Congratulations! Anyway, back to my point on if you are a part of those that only get just enough CEU’s and barely sit through the lectures without scrolling on your phone or falling asleep. As a professional within the field of behavior analysis, doing so will only hurt you in the long run.
It is clear that our field continues to grow in and of itself with new research findings, intervention packages, and evidenced based practices. Where if you feel that you do not need to engage in self-study this can lead to a very tunnel vision mindset, one that may not be able to see the bigger picture or implement a different strategy than the one you were trained on 10 years ago. I am not saying I am perfect. I have had cases that I thought I had the answers, I knew exactly what needed to be done without question and when it didn’t work I was completely stunned. In those moments it was hard to think of any next steps as I was in such disarray, which is a huge hindrance for any clinician. Imagine if we never engaged in self-study, we could continue to be providing hot sauce to patients as a punishment procedure opposed to incorporating the most recent empirically validated treatment plans.
Behavior intervention plans may be created based only on topography and not function or including functional alternatives. These are all an exaggeration of course, but it is clear that self-study is important based on how it can expand our knowledge and practice as well as lead to future research within our ever expanding field of behavior analysis!
Are you interested in joining the Attentive Behavior Care team? Apply for a position today!
By: Jacob Papazian MS, BCBA – Regional Clinical Director
The Walt Disney company said it best in their iconic ride “Spaceship Earth”: “we are on the brink of a new communication renaissance.” Behavior Analysis is on one such brink. As a field we are expanding into new contexts and populations. As the ABA sector becomes more well known, resources are becoming more scarce (Harvey, Harvey, Kenkel & Russo, 2010). Analysts are charged with implementing services without compromising ethical integrity. One such area is the functional analysis. Although crucial to ethical treatment, analog assessments are time consuming, expensive, and can be dangerous to staff and students (Hanley, 2012).
What is Trial Based Functional Analysis (TBFA)?
The Trial Based Functional Analysis, a relatively new form of assessment, was created to combat these difficulties by offering a fast and inexpensive form of assessment that informs behavior plan implementation. Rather than requiring 20+ minute conditions per each individual condition, two minute conditions that rapidly alternate are implemented in a pairwise fashion that are used to evaluate the potential antecedents and consequences that contribute to the initiation and ongoing maintenance of a targeted behavior. Using a control-test-control-control format, each analogous “condition” takes approximately six minutes to complete resulting in approximately ten conditions per hour of direct analysis which could potentially result in an interpretable result. Conditions are terminated after a single instance of the target behavior following delivery of the reinforcer being assessed. These probe data are usually presented as percentage of trials with problem behavior but have recently been analyzed using equal interval graphs (Bloom et al., 2013).
The current literature has validated this assessment using the Litmus Test (i.e., using reduction in problem behavior when interventions are based on the function derived in the assessment) and by comparing results from analog assessments (Austin, Groves, Reynish, & Francis, 2015). These two forms of validation have resulted in very different conclusions. Comparing the TBFA to standard analog assessments has resulted in an approximate 60% match (Austin et al. 2015). Those validating using the Litmus Test have found a near 100% validation rate (Bloom, Labmert, Dayton & Samaha, 2013; Kodak, Fisher, Paden, & Dickens, 2013; Lambert, Bloom, & Irvin, 2012). Studies using the Litmus Test have incorporated multiple baseline across participant designs, which add to the internal validity of their claims, but do not account for this discrepancy.
Understanding the Current Limitations of TBFA
So that’s fantastic: when we build a behavior plan off of the TBFA it works. However, the discrepancy between analog and alternative methods exists in a fairly significant chasm. Very little literature has been conducted in an attempt to determine why this discrepancy exists. Hypotheses abound ranging from lack of experience or training with the assessment method to failure of conditional discrimination or that the TBFA is simply an inferior form of analysis when compared to the analog. The questions abound but with such limited data and research it is difficult to make proper assertions.
The problem here: we simply do not have the research yet to back up any claims! We have emerging evidence but nothing that truly compares apples to apples the differences between the assessment methods to make a truly informed decision regarding clinical utility. As the great Dylan Thomas once said: “do not go gentle into that good night.” Research on, my fellow nerds!
- Austin, J. L., Groves, E. A., Reynish, L.C., & Francis, L. L. (2015). Validating Trial Based Functional Analyses in Mainstream Primary School Classrooms. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis (48)2, 274-288.
- Bloom., S. E., Lambert, J. M., Dayton, E., & Samaha, A.L. (2013). Teacher Conducted Trial- Based Functional Analyses as the Basis for Intervention. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis 46(1), 208-218.
- Hanley, G.P. (2012). Functional Assessment of Problem Behavior: Dispelling Myths, Overcoming Implementation Obstacles, and Developing New Lore. Behavior Analysis in Practice 5(1), 54-72.
- Harvey, C.A., Harvey, M.T., Kenkel, M.B., & Russo, D. C. (2010). Funding of applied behavior analysis services: Current status and growing opportunities. Psychological Services, 7(3), 202-212.
- Kodak, T., Fisher, W.W., Paden, A., & Dickes, N. (2013). Evaluation of the Utility of a Discrete Trial Functional Analysis in Early Intervention Classrooms. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis 46(1), 301-306.
- Lambert, J.M., Bloom, S.E., & Irvin, J. (2012). Trial-Based Functional Analysis and Functional Communication Training in an Early Childhood Setting. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis 45(3), 579-584.
Are you interested in joining the Attentive Behavior Care team? Apply today!
By: Lauren Fernandez, BA
Those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often lack safety awareness skills. Safety awareness skills include but are not limited to the following: safely crossing the street, avoiding situations that may cause harm to oneself or others, “stranger awareness,” fire safety skills, and knowledge of community signs. Safety awareness skills are important throughout all stages of life; from early childhood, to adolescence, to adult life and necessary across all environments (e.g., home, community, school, workplace). Teaching these skills are not only crucial to keeping individuals safe but also giving them the tools to lead a more independent life.
Those diagnosed with autism can be taught safety awareness skills using Behavioral Skills Training (BST), video modeling, a combination of both and/or In-Situ training (Gunby, Carr & LeBlanc, 2010).
Behavioral Skills Training
Behavior Skills training (BST) is a research-based intervention that is comprised of several different teaching components; instruction, modeling, rehearsal, and feedback (Miltenberger, 2004). BST has successfully taught those diagnosed with autism to avoid consuming poisons (Dancho, Thompson, & Rhoades, 2008), how to behave after discovering a firearm (Miltenberger, Flessner, & Gatheridge, 2004) and teaching abduction-prevention skills (Gunby, 2010). These are just a few examples of safety awareness skills that have successfully been taught via BST. Although BST has been found to be a beneficial safety awareness teaching strategy independently, research shows that BST in combination with in-situ training produces greater results (Miltenberger, Flesser, Gatheridge, Johnson, Satterlund, & Egmo, 2004). In-situ training entails pausing the individual in real-time when a skill is not being performed correctly, having the trainer immediately enter and direct the learner in correctly carrying out the safety skill. This is followed with corrective verbal feedback and reinforcement/praise. Below are the four BST steps broken down with an example.
Safety Skill: Crossing the Street Properly
Step 1: Instruction: Provide a description of the skill, including when to do this skill and when not to, and the rationale behind the skill. Give examples and non-examples.
Example: “When properly crossing the street, remember to stop on the curb, look both ways for cars, and then proceed when the road is clear. It is important to stop and look in both directions so you do not get injured.” *Here you can show a video of correct and incorrect ways to cross the street.*
Step 2: Modeling: Physically model the skill you are trying to teach the learner.
Example: Physically model for the learner the correct way to cross the street while emphasizing the steps that were talked about during Step 1. Here it might be helpful to use a task analysis to correctly address each step to crossing the street.
Step 3: Rehearsal: Practice is crucial! Have the learner practice the targeted skill as many times as possible. This can be done by creating opportunities for the skill to be practiced naturally or through role playing. A single- instance of rehearsal may not be beneficial, which is why it is important to continue practicing until the learner displays 100% accuracy in novel settings before transitioning the rehearsal setting out into the real world.
Example: Have the learner role play the appropriate way to cross the street multiple times during a therapy session, with novel individuals (i.e., Mom, Grandma, friend) in the home setting. Set a criteria the learner must meet (i.e., 100% accuracy across 2 different sessions, on 2 different days, with 2 novel individuals) in the home setting first before rehearsing outside.
Step 4: Feedback: Give the learner specific feedback as the skill is being practice in the real-world. This is where in-situ training comes into play.
Example: Have the learner cross the street in the real world. If the learner incorrectly crosses the street the trainer should immediately step in, explain what was incorrect, remind the learner the appropriate procedure while also giving reinforcement to the safety skills displayed correctly. Reinforcement example: “ I love how you remembered to stop at the curb, that was amazing! Next time remember to look both ways before stepping off the curb. Let’s try again.”
If the learner properly displays the appropriate safety awareness skill taught, there is no need to intervene. Let the learner finish out the procedure independently and come into contact with the natural reinforcement of getting to the other side of the street.
Safety awareness skills are so important for all individuals to learn, especially those diagnosed with ASD. There are so many safety concerns that individuals with autism are at a much higher risk of experiencing, but luckily teaching safety awareness skills can promote learner safety. Collaborating with parents, teachers and other individuals in the learner’s life can also be beneficial to ensuring that the safety skills being taught are individualized. There is no one-size-fits-all in safety awareness skills training!
- Dancho, K. A., Thompson, R. H., & Rhoades, M. M. (2008). Teaching preschool children to avoid poison hazards. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 41, 267–271.
- Gunby, K. V., Carr, J. E., & Leblanc, L. A. (2010). Teaching abduction-prevention skills to children with autism. Journal of applied behavior analysis, 43(1), 107–112. doi:10.1901/jaba.2010.43-107
- Miltenberger, R. (2004). Behaviour Modification: principles and procedure (3rd ed.) Belmont, CA. Wadsworth Publishing.
- Miltenberger, R. G., Flessner, C., Gatheridge, B., Johnson, B., Satterlund, M., & Egemo, K. (2004). Evaluation of behavioral skills training to prevent gun play in children. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 37(4), 513-516.
If you are interested in learning more about ABA therapy or how we can help please visit contact us today!
Within the realms of autism intervention, it is incredibly common for providers to use a tiered model of service delivery to increase billing propensity and meet an ever growing demand for behavior analytic services (BACB, 2017).
As a tiered model requires trained technicians, it is imperative that clinicians have a data based way to evaluate technician skill deficits in an empirically validated and quantitative format. The Performance Diagnostic Checklist for Human Services (PDC-HS) is an informant based tool that is specifically designed to assess environmental factors that contribute to specific deficits in employee performance specifically when working in the human services sector. Research has been conducted that demonstrates its efficacy to not only identify key performance deficits but also recommends evidence based strategies to remedy performance issues (Wilder, Lipschultz, & Gehrman, 2018).
The PDC-HS, created by Carr, Wilder, Majdalany, Mathisen, and Strain (2013) was created to fill a significant gap in our understanding of organizational behavior: a behavior analytically informed performance diagnostic. Although common operant models have been utilized in performance management since the early 1970’s, very little research has been conducted in the realm of Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) as far as validation (Austin, 2000). Therefore, the PDC-HS was developed to inform performance analysis specifically within the human services context.
The assessment itself is fairly simple. There are a series of 20 questions separated into four distinct sections: Training, Task Clarification & Prompting, Resources, Materials, & Processes; and (d) Performance Consequences, Effort, and Competition. Each section is includes four to six questions regarding employee performance. 13 questions can be answered based purely on an interview of the employee’s direct supervisor while seven require an actual observation. Each item scored as “no” on the assessment correlates with a potential intervention that can be used to improve performance (Carr et al, 2013). A pilot study conducted by Grubbs and Papazian (2019) reported that the average duration of assessment was 30 minutes inclusive of both the direct observation and interview with the direct supervisor.
Choosing an Intervention
Once the assessment is completed it is time to choose the intervention(s). As we discussed, each “no” is a potential option for an intervention. To make things simple, a handy scoring guide is listed with assessment that has corresponding interventions that are functionally based with references for further examples of how to implement the intervention in an evidenced based format. Each of the references are easy to find: a simple google scholar search results in pdfs available for download.
Concerns Using the PDC-HS
Interestingly enough, very little research has been conducted to validate the indicated interventions beyond the litmus test (i.e. testing out interventions in a quasi-experimental format.) Although this does demonstrate the internal validity of the assessment, the current empirical literature contains a significant gap: what if we used a contra-indicated intervention? Would we still see a change in behavior simply due to observer reactivity?
Wilder et al (2018) argued that further research was necessary as all the previous literature had not evaluated task clarification and prompting and resources, materials, and processes. In addition to simply evaluating the predictive nature of the assessment based on the litmus test, comparisons to contradicted interventions using multiple baseline logic was implemented to demonstrate the overall efficacy of the assessment to predict and control behavior. Spoiler alert: findings indicated that not only was the predictive nature of the assessment validated but contraindicated procedures did not result in reliable behavior change when compared to indicate assessments.
As need for behavior analytic services grows our need for a valid quantitative performance diagnostic assessment is even more important. The PDC-HS is one such emerging assessment that offers significant promise in this area. However, the literature is so sparse, with only FOUR peer reviewed studies to date. In order for a broader use of this assessment further research is needed for validation.
- Austin J. Performance analysis and performance diagnostics. In: Austin J., Carr J. E., editors. Handbook of applied behavior analysis. Reno, NV: Context Press; 2000. pp. 321–349.
- Carr, J. E., Wilder, D. A., Majdalany, L., Mathisen, D., & Strain, L. A. (201S3). An assessment-based solution to a human services performance problem: An initial evaluation of the performance diagnostic checklist for human services. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 6(1), 16-32.
- Grubbs, K., & Papazian, J. (2019, March). Improving graduate student performance in practicum settings using the performance diagnostic checklist – human services. (Poster Presentation at the Texas Association of Behavior Analysis Conference. Fort Worth, Tx)
- Wilder, D. A., Lipschultz, J., & Gherman, C. (2018). An Initial Evaluation of the Performance Diagnostic Checklist – Human Services diagnostic checklist – human services across domains. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 11(2), 129-138.
Interested in learning more? Contact Attentive Behavior Care today!
By: Nechame Cziment, BCBA
“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much” -Helen Keller
Puzzle pieces have become universal symbols for autism. The puzzle pattern reflects the complexity of the autism spectrum. A recent study released on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in JAMA Psychiatry concluded that individuals with ASD have a higher rate of co-occurring disorders than the general population. This study further emphasizes the complex needs of individuals with ASD and begs providers to answer the question, “How can we be sure these needs are being met?”
The answer to this question lies in coordination of care.
What is Coordination of Care?
Coordination of care involves bringing together various providers to coordinate services, patient needs and information to help better achieve the treatment goals and improve the quality of care. Research has shown that care coordination increases efficiency and improves clinical outcomes as well as patient satisfaction with care. Care coordination is not only a factor to consider in the treatment of ASD rather, it is fundamentally critical to the provision and management of ASD services.
Who is Involved?
An individual with a diagnosis of ASD may have many providers that are involved in treatment. Since a diagnosis of ASD usually affects the entire family not just the child, the child and his/her family network are at the center of the collaborative team.
Coordination of care should involve all members of the child’s ASD treatment team, including medical, educational, psychological, and other mental health providers and therapists.
The primary care physician is oftentimes the referral source who may be following the child’s progress and response to treatment and is a critical member of the team. The diagnostician who may either be the pediatrician, developmental pediatrician, psychiatrist psychologist, etc. remains a part of the team as long as they continue to treat the patient or reevaluate for responses to treatment or other health related matters. Speech/language therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, feeding therapists, and other related service providers should also be involved. Special education providers such as the classroom teacher, IEP coordinator, school psychologists, special education directors/administrators, and other school personnel also play a key role. Finally, any counselors or psychologists who treat the patient should also be included in the coordination of care plan.
What Does Coordination of Care Look Like?
A common misconception that parents and caregivers often have is that providers and professionals working with their child are separate entities, having nothing to do with each other. This however, is not the case and this mindset may prevent treatment from being implemented efficiently.
Let’s look at an example to illustrate this point:
Max is a 13-year old boy with a diagnosis of ASD, anxiety and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Max attends a special education classroom and also receives ABA services in a clinic 5 days a week. In addition to that he also receives Speech therapy and Occupational therapy twice a week. Max is also being followed by a psychiatrist who prescribed medication to address his anxiety and ADHD symptoms.
In school, Max is having a difficult time regulating his behaviors and interacting with his peers in an appropriate manner. He is punished multiple times a day for being off task and is even sent home occasionally due to his aggressive behavior. During his ABA sessions, Max is learning skills to address his social deficits and how to manage his behavior. Max’s parents are giving him the prescribed medication every day as indicated and then report back to his psychiatrist at their follow up appointment. During Speech therapy, Max is able to focus and he was reported to have great problem-solving skills when presented with a contrived situation. During Occupational therapy sessions, Max’s therapist is focusing on strengthening his fine motor skills to help him improve his handwriting skills.
The above scenario represents an approach in which each provider is working as a solo provider, targeting areas of deficit in isolation to treat the same child.
Now let’s look at a more coordinated approach to the same scenario.
Max’s BCBA®, coordinates with the school to share strategies and evaluate progress and offers to train staff on the implementation of a reinforcement system or behavior intervention plan to address the aggressive behaviors. The BCBA®, also shares the data as well as the results of the school coordination with the parents and trains the parents in these procedures to further generalize the skills learned to the home setting. The BCBA®, creates a simple data collection tool that stays with Max throughout the day and is completed by the school team, ABA team, parents, Speech therapist and Occupational therapist to gather information regarding behaviors related to the medications he is taking. The parents share this information with the psychiatrist at their next follow up meeting. The Speech therapist shares the terminology that is being used during the session so that it can be more consistently applied when providing feedback to Max for pertinent social scenarios. The Occupational therapist shares strategies with the school team, ABA team, Speech therapist and parents to help Max with focusing and other relevant issues.
As illustrated in the example provided above a collaborative approach results in a more streamlined and effective treatment. The child is less likely to become confused about how to use the skills taught in therapy sessions to achieve his goals.
The benefits of a coordinated approach to care are countless. But what can be done to ensure that coordination of care is actually happening? The following are a few steps that parents and providers can take to ensure coordination between a child’s treatment service providers:
- Knowing the treatment team – get to know the group of individuals providing services or care for the child.
- Consent – make sure each the proper releases/permission to communicate have been set up to allow providers to communicate with each other.
- Plan – develop a specific coordination of care plan that outlines the specific individuals who will coordinate care, at what frequency and when, and what the goals of the coordination efforts will be.
- Implement – work together to implement the coordination of care plan.
- Revise – members of the child’s treatment team may change from time to time, and the need to coordinate care may change over the course of treatment. Regularly revisit the coordination of care plan and revise and adjust as necessary.
- Report back – keep everyone informed of the results of the coordination of care and document those efforts.
- Plana-Ripoll O, Pedersen CB, Holtz Y, et al. Exploring Comorbidity Within Mental Disorders Among a Danish National Population. JAMA Psychiatry. 2019;76(3):259–270. doi:https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.3658
- SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions. Care Coordination. Retrieved from https://www.integration.samhsa.gov/workforce/care-coordination
If you are interested in learning more about ABA therapy or how we can help please visit contact us today!
By: Deirdre Kozyrski, MS, BCBA, LBA
In providing ABA services to individuals with a diagnosis of autism, proactive strategies are often used to help our clients gain critical language, social & self-help skills and reduce inappropriate and/or behaviors of concern. A proactive strategy is used before a behavior of concern occurs to help prevent that behavior from occurring. One such proactive strategy is the use of social stories. This article will focus on the following aspects of social stories.
- What are social stories?
- What skills can they help teach?
- Has there been research on the effectiveness of social stories?
- How can social stories be implemented in home- based ABA treatment?
Social stories are great tools to help to prepare people with the diagnosis of autism for new settings and for learning new skills. Social stories are written stories that provide information about a specific topic/setting. They can also provide some instruction on choices of appropriate behaviors that can occur within that topic/setting. Social stories can be used with all different ages, being able to read is not a requirement. For those clients who do not read, a social story could be read to them. Social stories often have pictures in them to help increase understanding of the topic, but do not have to have pictures/photos. The length of a social story often depends upon the age and skill level of the reader.
Guidelines of a how social story is written can vary depending upon the author. Social stories are often written in the first or third person. For example, a first – person sentence is “I am going to the beach with my family”. An example of a third person sentence is “Some families go to the beach for their vacation”. In her book, The New Social Story™ Book, 2015, Carol Gray describes 10 components of a Social Story™. (When the words Social Story™ are capitalized that is indicative that the story meets all of the Gray’s current 10.1 criteria). She also includes a CD in this book that has printable Social Stories™ that can be edited to meet a reader’s individual needs.
Carol Gray initiated the use of the Social Story™ approach approximately 30 years ago. In her 2015 book, she describes using both descriptive sentences and coaching sentences in a Social Story™. A descriptive sentence provides information about a topic without any kind of judgement or opinion. A coaching sentence offers choices of appropriate words or actions that could be used in the specific setting or situation. Throughout her book, Gray emphasizes the importance of respecting the intended readers. Aligning with that respect is her dedication to using positive statements in a Social Story™. She also suggests including sentences about the reader’s strengths & accomplishments in the Social Story.™
There are thousands of topics that can be written about in a social story. Here are some topics that I have helpful with my clients:
- ADL /Safety Skills – Learning how to : tie shoes, brush teeth, safely take medicine, take a shower, get dressed/undressed in a private setting, brush hair, accept getting a hair – cut without a tantrum, safely cross a street, safely walk through a parking lot, safely use a pool, appropriately interact with the family cat, etc.
- Social Skills – Learning how to: acclimate to a new school, how to play on the school playground, how to order lunch in the lunch room, go to the supermarket with your parents, go through security at the airport, use safe behaviors while on a family vacation, take turns with peers for choices of games/activities, eat at a restaurant, etc.
- Communication Skills – Learning how to: ask a peer to play, what can be said if that peer says “no”, ask for help, etc. Learning about the choices one can say when: a game is lost, a game is won, when a food is disliked, when a gift is disliked, feeling frustrated, angry, etc.
Some research that have been done on the effectiveness of Social Stories™ are:
- Thiemann & Goldstein (2001) combined the use of social stories with written text cues and video feedback to improve specific social communication skills ( contingent responses, securing attention, initiating comments and initiating requests) in 5 students with diagnoses of autism. They used Carol Gray’s 1995 criteria for social stories. Comprehension questions were also used after the reading of the social stories. A 10 minute social interaction time with typical peers was implemented after the instructional phase ( reading of the social story, comprehension questions & practice written text cue cards). This social interaction time had a specific social goal. The interaction times were video recorded and the 5 students were able to view their interactions. Students checked off on a yes/no form if they saw themselves demonstrating the specific social goal. The results of this study determined the combined treatment package did in fact increase the above specific communication skills.
- Chan & O’Reilly ( 2008) used Social Stories™ in an intervention package for 2 students with diagnoses of autism who were in a kindergarten inclusion classroom. The Social Stories™ were written using Carol Gray’s 1995 criteria. The reading of Social Stories™ were followed with comprehension questions and role play. The specific social communication skills targeted during this study were : increase in appropriate hand raising, increase in appropriate social initiations, decrease in inappropriate social interactions (personal space difficulties) and decrease in inappropriate vocalizations. The results of the study were increased appropriate social communications skills and decreased inappropriate social communication skills for both students.
Based on the above research, I have found it helpful to implement social stories/Social Stories™in combination with both comprehension questions and role play in home-based ABA treatments. I have also found it helpful to involve the parents of the client in the creation of the story by asking them to provide details of the topic/setting. Parents also are a great resource for providing pictures/photos for the story. Once we have the details of the story, I can ask the parents to provide specific photos that will help clarify the information in the story.
If a client is going on a family vacation, I usually start using the story in the client’s sessions at least 1 month before the vacation. I also ask the parents to read the story to the client a few times a week before the vacation and to take the story with them on vacation for further review. During the client’s session, I usually include 3-4 comprehension questions regarding the story in his/her program. I have found the client’s answers to the comprehension questions to be helpful in determining on how many times a social story needs to be read/reviewed. If the client continues to have difficulty correctly answering the questions, the story probably needs to be modified. After the comprehension questions have been discussed, we start to role play the targeted skills of the story.
Depending upon the topic/skills being learned and the age of the client, role play can be done with stuffed animals/dolls or with the client and team members. For example, with a 6-year old client learning how to accept taking medication without tantrumming, we role play with stuffed animals/dolls who are “sick or injured” and need to take “pretend medicine”. For an 8 -year old client who is going on a family vacation that requires him to go through airport security, we set up a mock security station with him and other team members in his home. He practices putting his belongings in a bin and walking through a mock metal detector. We practice different potential scenarios – the metal detector going off and the client having to walk back through it again, the metal detector not going off, etc.
Social Stories™ /social stories have been implemented as part of proactive interventions to help increase socially significant skills in people diagnosed with Autism. Many skills can be introduced through these stories. If you would like more information about this topic, please refer to a review of literature by Karel & Wolfe (2018).
- Chan, J.M., & O’Reilly, M.F. (2008). A Social Stories™ Intervention Package for Students with Autism in Inclusive Classroom Settings. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 41, 405-409.
- Gray, C. (2015) The New Social Story™ Book, 15th Anniversary Edition. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons.
- Karal, M.A., & Wolfe, P.S. (2018). Social Story Effectiveness on Social Interaction for Students with Autism: A Review of the Literature. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 53(1), 44-58.
- Thiemann, K.S. & Goldstein, H. (2001). Social Stories, Written text Cues, and Video Feedback: Effects on Social Communication of Children with Autism. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 34, 425-446.
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By: Ellen Barnett, MA, BCBA, LBA
Assessment of skill repertoires for individuals with autism is the foundation from which we develop appropriate and effective intervention. Currently, there are several assessments available in the field of ABA therapy. Given the many options, how do we confidently choose an appropriate assessment based on the needs of our clients? One study reports that the more familiar a BCBA® is with an assessment, the more likely he/she will choose it (Mathewson, 2018). Choosing an assessment based only on familiarity does not ensure the most effective treatment program or optimal outcome for our clients. It is necessary that we understand the similarities and differences, as well as the limitations of various assessments. I am guilty of relying on the same old assessment due to comfort level and familiarity. Recently, however, I have started working on developing competence with a larger variety of assessments and this has helped me become a better clinician. The following descriptions offer a starting point toward an increased understanding of some commonly used skill assessments that are currently available in our field. They include: the Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills- Revised (ABLLS-R), the Verbal Behavior- Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP), Promoting Emergence of Advanced Knowledge (PEAK), Assessment of Functional Living Skills (AFLS), Essential For Living (EFL), and the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM).
Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills – Revised (ABLLS-R)
Developed by Dr. James Partington, the ABLLS-R is a commonly used criterion-referenced assessment and curriculum that addresses the skills most typically developing children acquire by kindergarten. Based on Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior, the ABLLS-R is designed to identify and address skill deficits. It is comprised of 544 skills from 25 skill sets including language, social interaction, self-help, academic, and motor skills. The ABLLS-R is made up of two components, the ABLLS-R Protocol and the ABLLS-R Guide. The Protocol provides a detailed task analysis of language skills. The Guide provides instructions for scoring and strategies for developing appropriate goals. It is important to keep in mind that the hierarchy of skills in the ABLLS-R does not match typical development; nor does it address problem behavior. In spite of a lack of published studies evaluating its reliability, the ABLLS-R remains a popular assessment tool. The ABLLS-R may be appropriate for young children (ages two through six) and older children (ages seven and eight) who exhibit delays primarily in language and social skills.
Verbal Behavior –Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP)
Developed by Dr. Mark Sundberg, the VB-MAPP is a criterion-referenced assessment and curriculum that focuses on skills for typically developing young children. It focuses primarily on language and social skills but also includes some academic-related skills. Like the ABLLS-R, the VB-MAPP is based on Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior and it provides a detailed task analysis of language skills based on the verbal operants. Unlike the ABLLS-R, the VB-MAPP is written to match the progression of typical development and allows for the assessment of problem behavior.
The VB-MAPP contains five components. The Milestones Assessment is comprised of 170 measurable developmental milestones. The Barriers Assessment focuses on assessing common barriers that impede skill acquisition, including prompt dependence, failure to generalize, and impaired skill sets. The Transition Assessment serves as an assessment for potential transitions to less restrictive settings. It addresses rate of acquisition, adaptability to change, ability to learn in the natural environment, and ability to independently care for oneself. The Task Analysis and Supporting Skills component provides a list of skills that support the developmental milestones and that may be taught prior to each milestone. The VB-MAPP Guide provides information necessary for developing IEP goals and identifying interventions based on the results of other components of the assessments.
The VB-MAPP has little to no research supporting its reliability but, nonetheless, remains a popular tool for establishing the baseline level of a child’s verbal behavior repertoire and determining the interventions to follow. The VB-MAPP may be an appropriate choice for young children (ages two through six) who exhibit delays primarily in language and social skills.
Assessment of Functional Living Skills (AFLS)
Developed by Dr. James Partington and Dr. Michael Mueller, the AFLS is comprised of the AFLS guide and six assessment protocols that assess functional, practical, and age-appropriate daily life skills. The authors define functional skills as “commonly age appropriate skills that are used everyday for typical activities and routines and are essential for independence.” Created and formatted as an extension of the ABLLS-R, each AFLS assessment protocol breaks down functional skills into two to four levels. Each assessment protocol can be used alone, but together form a comprehensive assessment that covers a life-long continuum of skills. It is important to know that the AFLS guide provides an exhaustive list of functional skills, but does not provide specific methods for teaching these skills. The six assessment protocols are Basic Living Skills, Home Skills, Community Participation Skills, School Skills, Independent Living Skills, and Vocational Skills. Examples of skills included in the protocols are dressing, grooming, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, money management, job interviews, and computer skills. The AFLS is well suited to older learners, particularly ages 16 and up, who need to develop independent, daily living skills. This includes learners with dual diagnoses, learners who have exhibited little to no progress in skill acquisition programs, and learners with limited functional communication skills. When considering this assessment, one can keep in mind the authors’ words, “There is a certain point in a learner’s life when conceptual learning, like sorting shapes and colors needs to be replaced with specific practical skills required to improve a learner’s independence (Partington and Mueller, 2012).
Essential For Living (EFL)
Developed by Dr. Pat McGreevy, The Essential For Living is an evidence-based, communication, behavior, and functional skills assessment, curriculum, and skill-tracking instrument for children and adults with moderate-to-severe disabilities. The EFL is based on the principles and procedures of ABA and Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior. Like the AFLS, the EFL focuses on functional life skills but offers a much wider scope that allows for the identification and remediation of problem behavior. While the AFLS is far easier to administer, the EFL guides the development of meaningful goals and objectives for individual education plans, behavior plans, and instructional programs.
The EFL is not a developmental instrument and does not categorize skills by age. It is divided into five categories of skills, seven skill domains, and one domain of problem behavior. The EFL offers the option of a Quick Assessment for those who are new to the EFL or those with a learner who exhibits severe forms of self-injurious, aggressive, or destructive behavior. The EFL also offers an evaluation that assists the practitioner in selecting an appropriate alternative, primary method of speaking for individuals who cannot communicate effectively with spoken language. Central to the EFL is The Essential Eight that are referred to as “must-have skills” and are necessary for a “happy, fulfilling, and productive life as a child or an adult.” These skills are necessary for the reduction of problem behavior.
The EFL may be an appropriate choice for young children, ages two and older, who exhibit significant global delays, specific syndromes, have limited language, hearing and vision impairments, or other medical conditions. It may also be an appropriate choice for older children, ages nine and up, as well as teens and adults who have difficulty answering questions or participating in conversations, and/or have not acquired academic skills at a first or second grade level.
Promoting Emergence of Advanced Knowledge (PEAK)
Launched in 2011 by Mark Dixon, the PEAK is an evidence-based assessment and curriculum that combines the traditional verbal behavior (VB) approach with the science of derived relational responding, or learning through relations between stimuli without needing to be taught directly. This sets the PEAK apart from the ABLLS-R and the VB-MAPP that focus on direct instruction and stimulus generalization. The PEAK is currently the only assessment/curriculum that provides a technology for Relational Frame Theory (RFT), which is characterized as responding to one stimulus in terms of another. The author has noted that some perceive the PEAK as controversial, as it surpasses the long accepted account of verbal behavior as defined by Skinner. However, it is a novel approach to verbal behavior and teaches skills beyond those found in the ABLLS-R and the VB-MAPP. By emphasizing an approach to language consistent with Relational Frame Theory, the PEAK provides practitioners with the tools to build more complex repertoires that individuals need to effectively respond to novel stimuli in their environment.
The PEAK contains four modules. The Direct Training module has many of the same skills included in the ABLLS-R and the VB-MAPP (i.e. requests, labels, imitation, etc.). The Generalization module is common-core driven and focuses on taking the basic concepts across contexts, people, and stimuli. The Equivalence module focuses on deriving skills from other previously taught skills and addresses concept formation. The Transformation module is designed to promote an understanding of abstract concepts and perspective taking. This module starts with basic items such as shape-to-shape matching and progresses to abstract logical reasoning.
The PEAK may be appropriate for children birth to 16 years and can also be used with adults. Because the PEAK expands beyond the scope of skills taught in the ABLLS-R or VB-MAPP, it may be a good choice for children who have already moved quickly through skill acquisition in those assessments.
Early Start Denver Model (ESDM)
Developed by Sally J. Rogers and Geraldine Dawson, the ESDM is an evidence-based assessment and curriculum designed for young children who are diagnosed with or at risk for autism. The ESDM is a play-based, developmental, early intervention approach that is based on the naturalistic procedures of ABA. Its goals are to reduce the severity of ASD in young children and to increase functioning across developmental domains including imitation, communication, cognitive, social emotional, social play, adaptive, and motor skills. The ESDM is an intervention that is comprised of an assessment (The Early Start Denver Model Curriculum Checklist for Young Children with Autism) and a curriculum that includes heavy parent involvement. Many studies support the efficacy and effectiveness of the ESDM in a variety of settings and formats including intensive delivery, parent coaching, and daycare/preschool delivery. The ESDM may be a good choice for young children ages 12 months to 60 months who exhibit the classic traits of autism.
Choosing an appropriate assessment for our clients can be challenging. As BCBA’s® we need to move past our comfort zone and continually develop fluency with a variety of the assessment tools available in our field. In this way, we will be able to choose the best fit for our clients and ultimately provide gold-standard care.
For more information about ABA therapy or how we can help your child, contact Attentive Behavior Care today.
By: Jacob Papazian MS, BCBA – Regional Clinical Director, Michigan
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is most commonly associated with intensive intervention for developmental disabilities. A quick search on Indeed.com in the Southeast Michigan area brought up 12 different companies asking for Board Certified Behavior Analysts to work with individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and one lecturer position for a university.
This is not terribly surprising considering that the highest proportion of the Behavior Analytic literature has focused on treating behavior disorders (Leblanc, Heinicke, & Baker, 2012).
What Jobs Can I Get With a Behavior Analysis Degree?
Despite the popularity, there are a variety of career avenues available to Behavior Analysts that have nothing to do with developmental disabilities. In this post we’ll be discussing 7 fantastic jobs that you can get with your behavior analysis degree.
1 – Clinical Behavior Analysis
Behavior Analysts have long been overlooked in the turf war that is psychotherapy. Psychologists, social workers and counselors are trained to shape verbal behavior in sessions to bring about changes with a heavy focus on emotions and internal events. Psychotherapy has evolved with manualized treatment that is behavioral in orientation. If you have the inclination to use self-reporting as a form of data collection and a thirst for Relational Frame Theory (Ruiz, 2018), then Clinical Behavior Analysis may be for you! Most states require a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology or a similar terminal degree to perform and be reimbursed for psychotherapeutic services. However, several states allow Masters level clinicians to practice under the supervision of a Ph.D. Potential placements can include hospitals, schools, and private practices. Literature has been published in a variety of areas including personality disorders, depression/anxiety, psychosis spectrum, and obsessive compulsive disorders (formally under the umbrella of anxiety disorders).
2 – Clinical Research and Education
Are you a super nerd that has a passion for teaching?
Are you always reading the newest journal articles or dreaming of the next big research project for your clinical team?
If that is the case then you should consider a clinical research and teaching position with a local university. Many universities are offering coursework online and seek out Master’s level instructors. The advantage of having lecturers in their programs are twofold: they are typically less expensive than the core faculty and offer students an opportunity to learn from clinicians that are actively practicing. Research requirements are typically less intensive but offer resources most clinics do not have available.
3 – Comparative Animal Behavior
If you, like me, are a Disney fanatic and love animals, then there is the perfect job for you with the mouse! The Walt Disney Company hires Behavior Analysts that have experience with animal behavior. When new animals are introduced to the safari, they are taught to return to their night enclosures using conditional discrimination. Recreation specialists use phylogenically appropriate activities to keep the animals entertained and healthy. Most importantly, animal training occurs regularly for the wildlife shows throughout the parks to promote a message of conservation.
4 – Organizational Behavior Management
If working with neurotypical individuals is more your style, working in Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) might be a good fit for you. OBM practitioners typically work as independent contractors for companies to improve some aspect of performance through a variety of activities including functional assessments, interviews, and corporate trainings. Human Resources staff and recruiting also find that Behavior Analysts are great fits based on their understanding of motivation. Does helping the Olive Garden reduce food waste or increasing the average sale for a local pet supplies store sound interesting? How about helping managers become effective leaders? If so, OBM is a great option.
5 – Environmental Preservation
If the idea of protecting the planet is important to you then working in Environmental Preservation might be a good idea. Eco-friendly companies are always looking for specialists to not only market their products but to entice consumers to actually use them. Other organizations have been using Behavior Analysts in more traditional retail environments to increase use of biodegradable products. For example, researchers have recently been using extra stimulus prompts to reduce single-use plastics in restaurants with moderate success. For those that are interested in working in environmental policy this is a must consider.
6 – Theme/Amusement Park Safety and Security
Have you ever noticed that in theme and amusement parks, you feel relatively safe? So safe that you spend money on merchandise and food that you would normally never buy? There is an entire science behind keeping guests immersed and feeling safe to maximize spending. Behavior Analysts can provide valuable insight into the motivating operations to engage in target behaviors while in theme parks such as buying merchandise/food products and helping improve traffic flow to improve safety. Those that buy annual passes to their favorite attractions should look into these types of opportunities for free park admission and a paycheck!
7 – Health and Fitness
If you have been watching reality television shows lately, you may have noticed a small uptick in the realm of “life coaching.” Individuals are claiming to be “coaches” to improve quality of life. In most cases their goals center on health, fitness, and wellness. However, most of these individuals are not certified or licensed to be doing such work. Behavior Analysts are a logical fit to help consumers increase the frequency of engaging in healthy behaviors such as increasing cardiovascular exercise and reducing consumption of processed foods. Literature demonstrating the efficacy of basic behavior modification techniques to aid in weight loss is abundant. This specialization does warrants collaboration with other professionals such as dieticians, medical doctors and sports psychologists to ensure that clients are healthy enough for the activities and that they have an adequate caloric intake (Martin, 2015).
Regardless of the path that you take as a career, it is important to remember our ethical guidelines. As Behavior Analysts we stay within our competency. If you are interested in gaining more experience in an area, find a supervisor that can oversee your work and provide you additional support when needed.
What if I Like Developmental Disabilities?
If you have read up to this point and still are thinking “but I like what I do. I like working with Autism” then you are not alone. Working with ASD/DD is a lucrative option that has such a significant impact on the lives of those with which you work. As awareness increases, so do the opportunities for BCBAs ranging from direct care to clinical leadership. Attentive Behavior Care is one such organization that offers positions from technician to executive clinical leadership stressing clinical excellence.
Are you interested in joining the Attentive Behavior Care team? Apply today!
- LeBlanc L. A., Heinicke M. R., Baker J. C. (2012). Expanding the consumer base for behavior-analytic services: meeting the needs of consumers in the 21st century. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 5, 4-14.
- Martin, J. (2015). Behavior analysis sport and exercise psychology. Behavior Analysis: Research and Practice, 15(2), 148-151.
- Ruiz, F. (2018). A multiple-baseline evaluation of a brief acceptance and commitment therapy protocol focused on repetitive negative thinking for moderate emotional disorders. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 9, 1-14.
By: Jonelle Lupero, MsEd, BCBA, LBA (NY)
Note: The following is a fictional vignette created for the purposes of demonstrating common situations encountered by professionals in this field.
Every week, I meet with a fellow Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA®), “Lauren,” my supervisee who has been working in the field as a BCBA® for almost one year, is currently earning her supervision hours and working towards licensure as a behavior analyst in New York State. We have weekly meetings where I give her feedback about specific clients, treatment plans, and anything else pertinent that she would like to speak about. Recently, we have been conversing about her patient, “Julie,” a non-vocal 7 year old girl with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Lauren supervises Julie’s home-based ABA therapy program. Recently, Lauren has been expressing frustration about the way treatment sessions have been going. This week the conversation went like this:
Me: “Hi Lauren! How have the sessions been going with Julie?”
Lauren: “Ugh. I am super frustrated; I feel like I have tried everything! Julie is not making progress on her treatment plan goals”
Me: “So let’s take a few steps back. What specifically is the major issue you are dealing with?”
Lauren: “After working for 30 minutes, Julie earns a break. Every single time she goes on her break, she has a severe temper tantrum.”
Me: “Is she requesting a break?”
Lauren: “No, she has a very limited mand repertoire. We are working on shaping her mands now.”
Me: “What are her reinforcers?”
Lauren: “M&M’s, IPAD, break.”
Me: “When did you conduct the last preference assessment? Did you conduct a reinforcer assessment?”
Lauren: “I haven’t.”
Me: “So how do you know that the “break” is a reinforcer for her?”
Lauren: “It states it in the initial assessment.”
Me: “What are the dates of the assessment?”
Lauren: “It’s from almost one year ago.”
Me: “So how do you know that the break is still a reinforcer for her?”
Lauren: “It states it in the report.”
Me: “Sometimes we need to reassess. Just because a break might have been reinforcing for her one year ago doesn’t mean that it is a reinforcer for her now.”
Lauren: “Do you think that is why she is having temper tantrums?”
Me: “It could be; perhaps she doesn’t want the break.”
Lauren: “So what are my next steps?”
Me: “First, you need to conduct a preference assessment to see what things might function as reinforcers for Julie.”
Me: “Then, I would test it out. Conduct a session using the suspected reinforcers that you identified during your preference assessment. This will help you determine if these “preferred” stimuli will actually function as reinforcers for Julie. In other words, does the presentation of these stimuli actually result in an increase in the future frequency of the behavior that preceded it?”
Me: “Let’s see how that goes first and then we will discuss the results the next time we meet.”
Lauren: “Okay. Thank you for your feedback.”
In ABA therapy, or any other type of therapy for that matter, it is true that sometimes treatment plans simply do not work out as planned. Problem behavior may increase, and the individual may not make progress with the specific treatment goals.
The great news for individuals receiving ABA therapy is that BCBAs® are perfectly equipped and trained to deal with this. ABA is a science, and because of that, the data guides our decision making. All of the data recorded during each session will be carefully analyzed on a regular basis so that the BCBA® can make immediate changes to the treatment plan when the outcomes aren’t what we expect.
Since data are recorded and analyzed constantly, an ineffective treatment plan will not stay in place for long. In fact, one of the 7 dimensions of ABA is that it is effective—therefore, if the treatment plan isn’t effective, it means that ABA is not being done correctly, and the treatment must be monitored and adjusted until there is a positive impact on the target behavior.
So, what can we do when this happens? The previous scenario is one example regarding what we can do when our treatment plan isn’t working the way it was planned: reach out to a colleague… (of course protecting PHI)
Here are some other recommendations:
- Revisit the original assessment. When was it done? What are the behaviors targeted for increase? What are the behaviors targeted for decrease? Does it match the client’s deficits now?
- Revisit the FBA/BIP. Does the FBA/BIP need to be updated? Do the interventions being implemented match the functions of the behaviors?
- Is there treatment integrity? Is the treatment plan being implemented the way it was intended?
- Are the patient’s reinforcers updated? When was the last preference assessment done? Was a reinforcer assessment conducted following a preference assessment?
- Communication. Is everybody on the team communicating including parents, technicians, and the BCBA®?
- Is parent training taking place? Have there been any significant changes in the individual’s life (e.g. moving, new sibling, change in school)?
- Coordinate care. Did you coordinate care with other professionals who work with the individual? Is the individual on any medications? Are there any medical conditions or limitations you should account for? Are multiple treatments being implemented?
- Collaborate with a fellow BCBA®. The field of ABA is very big and not one person knows everything!
- Do the research! There is a vast amount of resources available to us including “ABAI”, Association for Applied Behavior Analysis International, “BACB”, Behavior Analyst Certification Board, JABA (Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis) and many more!
- Consistency, Is the individual receiving the recommended frequency and duration of ABA therapy? Do adjustments need to be made to the schedule?
As a behavior analyst we have many options when our treatment plans are not working. I hope you found this information useful and can implement some of these recommendations.
Are you interested in joining the Attentive Behavior Care team? Apply today!
By: Maria Pantelides, MA, BCBA, LBA (CT, MA, MD, NY)
You have finished your coursework, you’ve completed all of your supervision hours and passed the BACB Exam, CONGRATULATIONS!
Behavior analysis is the science of behavior. Behavior is a product of its circumstances, particularly the event that immediately follow the behavior. (The Board Certified Behavior Analyst® (BCBA®), 2019).
In the role as a behavior analyst, you study behavior and how that behavior affects motivation. Our goal as behavior analysts is to improve the lives of the individuals and those who care for those individuals. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) “is a scientific approach for discovering environmental variable that reliably influence socially significant behavior and for developing a technology of behavior change that takes practical advantage of those discoveries” (Cooper et. al, 2007).
By utilizing the principles of ABA our goal is to provide the highest quality services possible to our clients, and increase socially important behaviors. There are various environments you can work as a behavior analyst (e.g., schools, homes, clinics, hospitals); regardless of the environment you are working it is important that every client has an effective treatment that is rooted in the evidence-based literature of ABA.
Often times, as a behavior analyst you spend an extensive amount of time working with other professionals (e.g., technicians, parent/caregivers). These individuals also work with the client and implement treatment that you have created. It is your responsibility to analyze the data, and be present as a BCBA in the client’s program and ensure that you are providing an effective treatment. We are constantly communicating with parents and other team members of our clients and in your role as a behavior analyst, it is important to remember that collaboration and consistency is critical to the success of your client.
As a behavior analyst you must be able to provide services that are within your scope of practice and area of expertise. You must abide by Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s Professional Ethical Compliance Code and Guidelines for Responsible Conduct (BACB, 2014) as well as all local, state, and federal laws with regards to the provision of services.
A behavior analyst plays a huge role in an individual’s team and can help decrease the challenges faced, enhance the lives of individuals, and increase an individual’s quality of life as well as their families. The field of ABA is constantly growing and there is always new research being conducted on how to improve our client’s socially significant behavior. There is no better job or field than that!
- Applied Behavior Analysis Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder: Practice Guidelines for Healthcare Funders and Managers (2014, Behavior Analyst Certification Board Inc.(“BACB) Ver 2.0). Retrieved from http://bacb.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/ABA_Guidelines_for_ASD.pdf
- Behavior Analyst Certification Board Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts(2014,
- Behavior Analyst Certification Board, Inc. “BACB”). Retrieved from http://bacb.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/160321-compliance-code-english.pdf
- Cooper, J.O., Heron, T.E., & Heward W.L.,(2007). Applied behavior analysis (2nd ed.).
Columbus. OH: Merrill Prentice Hall.
Are you interested in joining the Attentive Behavior Care team? Apply today!
Photo Credit: ABAI International
By: Nahoma Presberg, MS BCBA and Gabrielle Galto, BCBA, NYS LBA
What is ABAI? ABAI stands for the Association for Behavior Analysis International, and they hold an annual convention that brings together behavior analysts and other professionals for an opportunity to disseminate knowledge, network professionally and socially, and further the field of behavior analysis.
This year, we had the opportunity to attend the 45th convention held in Chicago, Illinois with thousands of other professionals. As first time attendees we were overwhelmed by how grand the entire convention was, but with that in mind it was such an amazing opportunity to grow professionally and already excited to come back next year. Our experience of ABAI fell into a few different categories including the professional development side, networking, and product development with the ever growing technologies now used within the field.
Presentations are naturally a major component of ABAI. There are hundreds of lectures to attend including workshops, panels, symposiums and invited presenters. Workshops are an option prior to the beginning of the convention at an additional cost, which allows for more hands on learning and in depth discussions of particular topics. During the convention itself, presentations are offered from about 8am until 7pm. We personally attended a variety of different presentations in the areas of supervision, verbal behavior, ethics, diversity, functional analyses, and relational frame theory to name just a few. We were amazed and overwhelmed by the vast variety of presentations and noticed that there were lectures on so many topics that we’re sure everyone could find something to meet their needs and interests. As a note, CEs are also available for most presentations. Many attendees choose to purchase the CE package which allows you to accumulate as many CEs as you would like throughout the conference. While we didn’t have the chance to take full advantage, there are also poster sessions that allow researchers to present their work in a more casual environment. We’re excited to bring back our new knowledge in the area of verbal behavior and begin to implement some of the methodologies related to mand training and increasing vocalizations through hand cues.
Social and Professional Networking
Throughout the convention, there are various opportunities to network with different professionals as well as companies and educational institutions. There was a job fair, exhibitors, and formal social events to promote communication and networking between professionals. This provides opportunities to learn about various job openings for behavior analysts and educational programs within the field for both masters and doctoral levels.
We chose to attend one of the two major social events, which was a social gathering at a bar with ping pong tables that was such an amazing time for all that attended. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet other professionals and hear about all the important work they are doing. Of course, you have to pick and choose where to devote your time as there were just so many things to do here!
Product Development and Technology
In addition, there are a number of vendors who come to share their products related to new technology within the field. There are opportunities to communicate with software companies who are working to expand our capacity in the field through data collection methods, virtual reality training, and online education. Companies provide demos of their product so that you can see what they are working on and figure out if their technology is the right fit for you or your company. We had fun exploring virtual reality and imagining what this technology will allow us to do in the near future.
Overall, ABAI was a fun and valuable experience with all that they had to offer. It was important and refreshing to take a few days away from our normal routines to re-energize our passion for behavior analysis and expand our skill set and grow in this ever expanding field. It was amazing to see and remember all the ways that ABA is growing and expanding in new technologies, methodologies and bringing our science to populations outside of the focus of autism.
Are you interested in joining the Attentive Behavior Care team? Apply today!
By: Jessica Basir, M.S., BCBA, LBA (NY, CT)
If you are reading this post, chances are you are pursuing an ABA therapy job. You may have a lot of experience working in the field, or you even have your BCBA®. Maybe you are just beginning your journey in this field and have no experience at all. Either way, deciding on a job in the field of ABA therapy can be overwhelming since there are a multitude of options out there.
So, how do you choose?
You already made the first step by checking out our website and doing some research!
First and foremost, many individuals who work for Attentive Behavior Care (ABC) grew their careers within the company. Current full-time BCBA’s® began their careers working part-time with ABC as technicians on one or two cases.
As their interest grew in the field, they began pursuing their education in ABA, obtaining their degrees, and becoming Board Certified Behavior Analysts®. From there, they pursued their career goals with the help of the clinical team and obtained full-time positions as supervisors overseeing a multitude of cases. ABC helps grow professionals and fosters long-term professional goals.
Working at ABC
ABC has been recognized as a Behavioral Health Center of Excellence since 2016 and was recently awarded a two-year re-accreditation from the BHCOE. This award recognizes the company’s integrity and the effectiveness of the services they provide. Working for a company that achieves substantial recognition in our field provides a great sense of pride and admiration from the employees who work within it. At ABC, you can be proud of where you work.
Working within ABC you will also have access to top-of-the-line data collection systems and virtual clinics. Rather than completing data on paper, fussing with clipboards, and managing a multitude of program sheets, all data is stored in a virtual database allowing for easy access of all programs, targets, and data collection procedures. You do not have to worry about forgetting anything because it is all at your fingertips! ABC also provides all staff with their own personal company tablets, and an on-site training team to assist with any difficulties you may have.
ABC’s Support Teams
Another great asset of ABC is their support teams. Whether you are a technician starting your first case, or a BCBA® who has been in the field for years, the science of ABA therapy requires an extensive amount of collaboration. ABC provides each case with a case coordinator, an individual assigned to help maintain schedules, consents, and communication between families and their staff. In addition to the coordination staff, the offices consist of a clinical director who is assigned to help collaborate and respond to clinical questions concerning your specific cases.
ABC also offers part-time and full-time opportunities, in multiple states. Schedules are tailored to your preference in location, times, and skill level. Similarly, the company fosters an environment that allows individuals to grow and pursue their long-term career goals from start to finish.
Whether you are just beginning your journey or are a seasoned professional in the field of ABA therapy, ABC will support you on your journey to growing your skills and offer you experiences that will last a lifetime.
That is why I love working at ABC!
Are you interested in joining the Attentive Behavior Care team? Apply today!
By: Nahoma Presberg, MS BCBA
If you are interested in practicing behavior analysis in New York State, you might have started to look at what credentials are required to practice in different environments.
The Behavior Analyst Certification Board® (BACB®) is the national governing board which is in charge of the BCBA® credential. If you are a Board Certified Behavior Analysit (BCBA®), you have completed the coursework and practicum and passed the examination administered by the BACB®.
In some states, this is enough to practice behavior analysis. However, New York State does not recognize the BACB® credential. Instead, there is a licensure process. While the BCBA® credential is technically not required in New York State, it is highly recommended that behavior analysts also earn this credential since it is the gold standard in the field.
The New York State license requires that you:
- Have a master’s degree from a program registered by the Department or determined by the Department to be substantially equivalent to such a program, in accordance with the Commissioner’s Regulations
- Complete 1,500 supervised hours with individuals with ASD in the practice of applied behavior analysis satisfactory to the Board and Department in accordance with the Commissioner’s Regulations
- Pass the Examination (this is the same that you’d take to obtain your BCBA®)
- Pass the New York State Autism Exam
There are two ways to obtain your New York State LBA (Licensed Behavior Analyst). Some people choose to get their LBA at the same time as they are working on their BCBA®. This can be done through a University masters program. Others choose to get their BCBA® prior to their LBA. In this situation, you would qualify to apply for a limited permit in New York State. The limited permit allows you to work as a behavior analyst for a year under the supervision of a licensed behavior analyst. Many people finish their requirements for the license under their limited permit.
Obtaining a Limited Permit
First, let’s talk about how to apply for and obtain a limited permit.
The first step is to submit the Application for Licensure, which is Form 1 on the New York State Office of the Professions website. Whether you are applying directly for your license or first applying for the limited permit, you will only need to submit this form once. It opens up your general application. With this form, you will submit the $300 application fee (also only paid once), and an additional $70 limited permit application fee.
The next step is to submit Form 2. This is the certificate of professional education. Some programs are licensed accredited institutions, which means that New York State has pre-approved the coursework, so getting your education approved should be a simple process. However, if you did not graduate from a pre-approved site, you can still demonstrate that your education meets the state requirements.
The next step for the limited permit is Form 5. This is the application for the limited permit itself. In order to receive a limited permit in New York State, you must have someone who is willing to be your supervisor. They will have to fill out the form with you, demonstrating to the state that you will have the appropriate supervision during the limited permit process.
It is highly recommended that once your limited permit gets approved, you finish your hours within a year because that is when the limited permit expires. If you are unable to finish the required hours within a year, you can reapply for the limited permit in order to complete this process.
If you are practicing with a limited permit in New York State, you are required to meet for 2 hours a week with your supervisor. These meetings can occur directly in sessions with patients or as meetings outside of a formal session. These meetings must occur face-to-face, but can be in person or via a webcam or virtual meeting space.
Applying for Licensure
At this point, you are ready to apply for licensure. Either you have completed your 1,500 hours at the same time as obtaining your BCBA® or you have completed your hours as a limited permit practitioner. Either way, you are ready to submit Form 4.
Form 4 is the Report of Professional Experience. This is the form that your supervisor signs to attest to the hours you have completed doing behavior analytic work with individuals with Autism.
Obtaining your license to practice behavior analysis in New York State can be a stressful and confusing process. This article attempts to outline the basic process of what you might encounter, but depending on your specific situation and background, there may be differences that you experience. Make sure to be thorough in your communication and documentation.
As a clinician who is in the process of obtaining an LBA, the strong recommendation is to call the Office of the Professions on a regular basis. They are often extremely busy with applications and it can take a long time for them to process paperwork.
However, if you call them regularly, they can give you more accurate updates about your process and let you know if you are missing any forms of documentation that you may have missed. Often times it can take many weeks or months to get any piece of the process completed. You should also expect long wait times in order to speak to a representative.
I wish everyone good luck with the process and a smooth transition to becoming a licensed clinician!
Please note: This post was written by a BCBA® familiar with the NY State LBA process based on personal experience. It is designed to provide insights based on this experience that may prove helpful to others seeking their NYS LBA. It does not constitute legal advice.
Additional information can be found on the website: http://www.op.nysed.gov/prof/aba/abalic.htm.
Are you interested in joining the Attentive Behavior Care team? Apply today!
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!
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 BACB.com 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!
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.
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