Getting To Know ABA Clinicians: Your Child’s Progress Matters to Them

A therapist sitting in early intervention autism therapy with a young child

A Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) is a clinician with a master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). They most often provide therapy and treatment for individuals diagnosed with behavioral challenges, developmental disorders and intellectual disabilities. At Ally Behavior Centers and other ABA therapy centers, they develop treatment plans and work directly with individuals who have a medical diagnosis of ASD. 

Managing a Child’s Unique Treatment Plan

BCBAs are responsible for creating unique treatment plans and overseeing Behavior Technicians (BTs) who administer and execute those plans. The treatment plan identifies unique goals associated with a specific individual that are related to three different categories: academic readiness, socialization and communication.  Goals are developed based on initial observations and structured assessments conducted by the BCBA when services begin, as well as feedback from the child’s parents and caregivers.  

For example, a parent may ask their BCBA to help them set a goal to decrease the frequency with which their child engages in elopement (running away). The BCBA will start by ensuring the therapist assigned to this child is first recording how often the child is eloping, BTs are recording data on when the child elopes, frequency in which it’s occurring and what may have happened right before the elopement occurred. The data may show that the child elopes whenever it is time to go to the bathroom. At this point, the BCBA can pursue a number of different solutions. They may have their BTs take the child to the bathroom with their favorite toy or give them a treat on the way to and from the restroom. This type of encouragement is known as an enforcer. Sometimes it takes several tries to find what works for a child, but each attempt provides valuable insight to help the child make progress in an area of concern. 

Parent Training

BCBAs are required to meet with parents monthly to discuss the child’s treatment, progress and goal status, as well as teach and guide parents to follow similar reinforcement techniques outside of the center setting. This is called generalization.  Training sessions are great chances for parents and the BCBA to celebrate breakthroughs in a child’s progress as well as offer support for the parents who are usually looking for ways to help their child take what’s been successful in the center and apply it to environments such as a restaurant, a playdate, a family vacation or the doctor’s offices.  ABA therapy is a team effort and a child’s progress can grow exponentially when their therapist and parents are working closely together.  

Behavior Technician Coaching

Since they are senior clinicians, a large part of a BCBAs job is answering questions, assessing the quality of work and offering constructive feedback to their junior counterparts, the behavior technicians. There can be confusion about the best way to execute part of a treatment plan and so BTs will often have questions about what to do in certain situations. In fact, this is one of the most profound benefits of center-based therapy. BCBAs have many more opportunities to answer questions and coach BTs on their team as opposed to in-home therapy where a BCBA may only observe sessions sporadically or over a video call.

Continually Assess Client’s Progress

ABA is a scientific and evidence-based approach to treating autism. Practitioners must assess their clients’ progress using documented data about their behaviors. This is why clear definitions of behaviors and consistent monitoring and collection of data is so important. If the frequency of those behaviors is not decreasing, the BCBA needs to reevaluate the plan and its execution. In addition to this, BCBAs perform assessments with their clients as a firm marker of the child’s progress. These longer assessments are performed every six months.

Here is a list of common responsibilities you might find in a BCBA’s job description:

  • Conduct and score initial (and ongoing) cases using appropriate tools
  • Develop individualized treatment plans for each client and communicate goals/progress with your team of Behavior Technicians and the child’s family
  • Train and supervise a caseload of clients and technicians
  • Provide supervision for BCBA/BCaBA candidates
  • Develop parent training goals and lead parent training sessions
  • Collaborate with other professionals providing therapy to the client such as speech and occupational therapists
  • Provide direct one-on-one ABA therapy to children
  • Meet with clients to observe and assess behavior challenges
  • Create a safe and inclusive environment for clients
  • Maintain thorough notes of client progress
  • Learn about new techniques, methods, and findings within the ABA field
  • Supervise and instruct others in the field

What is a typical day for a BCBA?

Here’s an example of what a day might look like for a BCBA at Ally Behavior Centers:

8:30 am: Arrive at  the center, set an agenda for the day which includes preparing for a morning meeting with their behavior technicians. Final prep for any parent training or assessments scheduled.  Check in with other clinical staff members such as occupational therapists and speech therapists.

8:45 am: Every BCBA leads a morning meeting with their team to discuss treatment plans, an individual client’s success or extra support needed, announcements about continuing education opportunities, client safety in the center or really whatever anyone needs help with.  It’s really important the whole team begins the day feeling informed about who they will work with so sessions are set up for success.

9:00 am: While clients arrive, BCBAs often take this as an opportunity to review treatment plans while BTs work with children 1:1. This may include setting new goals for clients or adjusting treatment methods that do not seem to be working.  This hour is also a popular time for parent training sessions.

10:00 am – 4 pm: A  BCBA  takes time to observe their team of BTs with various clients. They are watching both to see how their clients are progressing and responding as well as whether the behavior technicians understand the mechanics of the plan. Since every child is formally assessed before treatment can begin and then re-assessed every 6 months, it isn’t unusual for a BCBA to have an assessment to conduct and a treatment plan to draft during this time.

4:00: This is the other popular time for parent training sessions and most BCBAs are spending this hour with parents of a child on their caseload.  Most BCBAs at Ally carry a caseload of 5-8 children.

5:00: The clients’ day ends and BCBAs often accompany a child during dismissal to touch base with their family at pick-up.

The day ends for a BCBA once they’ve documented their day and started prepping for the next.  While this can vary, it’s not unusual for a BCBA to use this time to call a parent, catch up on email communication with parents, write reports and assessments. 

When we asked our BCBAs what they love about their job, they consistently told us that watching their clients grow, adapt and master new skills is what keeps them engaged and excited about what they’ve chosen as their profession. They feel fulfilled supporting children, their families and the staff who are helping each client reach their potential.  We are proud of our BCBAs leadership and clinical excellence. If this is a team you would want to be a part of, please apply! We are always looking to add great BCBAs. If you think your child could benefit from ABA therapy, contact us today.