Qualifications for ABA Therapists

What makes an ABA therapist qualified?
Some recommended qualities to look for include:

• Has obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Psychology, Child Development
• Is not just simply "employing the principles of ABA", but actually trained in ABA
• Has received extensive refresher and additional training (i.e. training does not stop after graduation) by highly qualified professionals
• Has extensive experience working with children with autism, preferably those of the same age of the child to be treated
• Enjoys interacting with children
• Has a high-energy level to be able to handle long hours working with children
• Has a pleasant attitude; easy to relate to
• Open-minded to constructive suggestions and directions
• Reliable and responsive
• Has a personal passion to work with children and help them develop

Other issues to consider include:
• Is the therapy session 1:1 so that full attention can be given to the child?
• Will the same therapist always be working with your child, or is he/she just the main therapist?
• Where has the therapist worked before? Why did he/she leave the previous job?
• Has the therapist packed the schedule too tightly? He/she may get burned out or too tired.
• Does the therapist plan to move far away, change employers, go for further studies, or give birth?
• Does the therapist have commitments or vacations that may make him/her unavailable?

The BCBA qualification
A recent qualification, the Board Certified Behavioral Analyst (BCBA), aims to provide a simple way to identify professionals who are qualified to provide ABA services. However, the BCBA certification does not automatically mean that one is also certified to have the suitable training and course work in autism.

Although BCBA qualifications require a supervised internship, it does not set standards regarding type of training and the amount of training. The professional’s experience may be unrelated to behavioral treatment or designing teaching curriculum for children with autism. In addition, the multiple-choice paper-and-pencil exam focuses on knowledge of research design and data analysis.

In other words, it is possible to obtain a BCBA qualification with little practical experience and limited training in clinical work with children with autism, their caretakers and other professionals.

Parents and educators who seek to engage an ABA therapist should look beyond simple qualifications (e.g. BCBA, Master Degrees).
Do also consider:

• Direct observation of how the therapist work with their clients
• Previous clinical experience working with children with autism
• The type of skills used by the therapists when working clinically with children with autism
• The reputation of the therapist
• The reputation of the therapist’s present and previous employers
• The reputation of the institute/professional who trained and taught the therapist
• Other professional qualifications held by the therapists


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