ABA Therapists

Learn how to find the best ABA therapists for children with autism symptoms or pervasive developmental disorders (PDD NOS). Applied behavior analysis - ABA is currently the most effective evidence-based approach for treatment of autistic disorder. ABA therapy can be applied in schools for autism or within the home by parents and other trained professionals. It generally consists of using practices such as discrete trial training, pivotal response training, incidental teaching and picture exchange communication systems (PECS)

Often times there are local behavioral consulting firms that employ therapists or you can put an ad on craigslist or in the paper to find a local therapist. Just remember to always check references if finding one this way. I would talk to your diagnosing physician to determine what services are available in your area, but I personally highly recommend Key Autism Services, which is currently in parts of Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Colorado. They are certified by the Behavioral Health Center of Excellence and offer home based services as well as some center based services in Illinois, Georgia, and North Carolina. If your child's school and insurance allow it, they may also be able to do some school based services.

If you are choosing not to go through your insurance, ABA therapy can be expensive with pay ranging anywhere from $10-$100/ per hour depending on the type of service provided, experience and the individual’s credentials. Currently, insurance does not require any type of specific degree to be an ABA therapist, but many do require them to become a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT). This involves approximately 40 hours of training, a competency assessment demonstrating the ability to perform ABA techniques and an exam. 

States mandating insurance to pay for ABA therapists

Many states are pushing for the approval of insurance companies to fund this treatment at least partially, due to it being one of the only empirically validated autism treatments. Currently, there are currently 46 states that have passed laws mandating coverage, up from just 23 states approximately 7 years ago including the following:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virgina
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

You may also consider a new online ABA program to train and provide programs for parents or ABA therapists called Rethink Autism. It teaches you how to implement ABA and provides tailored programs to use yourself as needed for your child's specific needs.

The interventions may be applied by trained ABA therapists, a discrete trial technician, RBT or certified behavior analyst. There are two levels of certification for Behavior Analysts. Board Certified assistant Behavior Analysts (BCaBA) and Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA).

An assistant level only requires the completion of a bachelors degree from an accredited institution with a certain number of credits in behavior analysis and ABA instruction and supervision of work by a BCBA. They can do everything a BCBA does, but have to be supervised by a BCBA certified individual.

The BCBA requires a minimum of a master’s degree and will appear as BCBA-D if the individual has a doctorate. Both levels require a demanding examination for certification. So, if you see these credentials, it is safe to say, this person knows his or her stuff.

What should you look for in therapists?

When looking for ABA therapists, look for someone that is very positive, loving and affectionate. The more animated a therapist is the more of an impact it will have on the child. You also want to make sure that therapists are able to recognize all behavior that should be reinforced and not just those specifically outlined in the program currently being implemented.

For example, if a child doesn’t do the outlined behavior, but does sit still with his/her hands in lap and says words/sounds that he or she wouldn’t normally say, some form of praise and reinforcement should be given to recognize these outstanding behaviors. Familiarity with discrete trial training and picture exchange communications systems is very important, since these are a huge part of ABA.

It is also recommended that ABA therapists have supervision from a trained behavior analyst if possible. This will ensure that maximum progress is made and that programs are being followed as intended to avoid regression.

Find a Board Certified Behavior Analyst in your area.

If you haven't already, be sure to download my eBook with the best tips and techniques for helping all children by clicking the image below!

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