ABA Therapy Providers: Who Makes Up Your Team?

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If you are looking into ABA or about to start an ABA program, it is important to understand the roles that each of the ABA therapy providers team member plays. This blog will give you some insight into all the acronyms (BCBA, BCaBA, RBT), and how they help your child succeed. It is of utmost importance to be familiar with the roles of your ABA team and who should be a part of it. However, what exactly should this look like, and what are their roles?

Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA or BCBA-D)

Graduate or doctorate level professional certified in behavior analysis. The BCBA certification shows that the practitioner has met requirements critical in the overseeing of behavior analytic services. This role conducts assessments on clients to create behavior intervention plans. These assessments include interviews, checklists, rating scales, skill assessments, and direct observation. Following the results of the assessments conducted, maladaptive behaviors are identified, functions maintaining these behaviors are determined, and skills deficits and strengths are reported. A behavior intervention plan is then created. The BCBA will then oversee the RBTs’ implementation of the goals in the intervention plan. They are an integral part of the ABA therapy providers team.

Although conducting assessments and supervising RBTs are important, arguably, the most substantial role of a BCBA would be the parent and caregiver training. BCBA’s should be in consistent contact with the caregivers of the client. It includes conducting continuous training with caregivers/parents on the protocols in the behavior intervention plan. Caregiver training goals are an essential component of every intervention plan. This is so caregivers could continue treatment with the client even while providers are not present.

Becoming a BCBA takes several steps. Firstly, they must have a master’s degree and must have completed a verified course sequence of behavior analytic courses. Secondly, they must have 2,000 hours of supervised fieldwork in ABA. Five percent (5%) of these hours per month are supervised by a qualified BACB certificant. Following completion of all these requirements, a BCBA is also bound by a very similar code of ethics that the RBT and BCaBA are. BCBA’s cannot engage in multiple relationships with a client or supervisee, accept or give gifts, and must remain within professional boundaries.

The client and family should be in frequent contact with the BCBA assigned to their case. Following the assessment and the treatment plan being created, caregivers and the BCBA should have an appointment scheduled to review each component in the plan. Once reviewed and questions are answered, all parties will sign the consent form for treatment to begin. After the beginning of services, caregiver training should be occurring regularly, plus client and RBT supervision should be conducted weekly. Any questions about services should be directed to the BCBA. Caregivers also have the right to report any concerns with services or the RBT to the BCBA. The client will also be reassessed every 3 to 6 months by the BCBA to determine mastery of goals, potential reduction of ABA hours, and progress on caregiver training.

Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA)

A BCaBA certification is a bachelor’s degree level certification with a specified course sequence in behavior analysis. While completing the coursework, they have to accrue 1,300 hours of fieldwork, with 5% of these hours per month supervised by a BCBA. Following completion of these requirements, they will sit for a Board mandated exam.

BCaBA’s are professionals certified to provide behavior-analytic services under the supervision of a BCBA. These professionals cannot provide services without a BCBA. However, they may supervise the work of an RBT. This role will provide direct service to clients as well as supervise other RBTs working with their clients. They can adjust protocols and interventions, but any changes must be approved by a BCBA first.

BCaBA’s are also bound by a very similar code of ethics that the RBT is. They cannot engage in multiple relationships with a client or supervisee, accept or give gifts, and must remain within professional boundaries.

This role is not always included in the team of your ABA therapy providers. Typically, if a BCaBA is assigned to an ABA therapy providers team, they will be providing similar services to that of an RBT while simultaneously assisting the BCBA in creating and adjusting evidenced-based treatments and analyzing client progress. The BCaBA may also be present at the same time as the RBT to conduct supervision and ensure protocols are implemented according to the plan.

Registered Behavior Technician (RBT)

An RBT is a paraprofessional certified in delivering behavior analytic services and assisting in the application of behavior protocols as designed by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. An RBT must work directly under the BCBA with continuous close supervision of each child they work with. This role conducts most of the direct service, meaning they implement the behavior protocols and teaching procedures outlined in a client’s behavior intervention plan.

Becoming an RBT takes several steps. Firstly, the individual must be at least 18 years of age, have at least a high school level of education, and complete a background check comparable to the ones required by teachers. Then they must complete a 40-hour training course designed to address the key components outlined in a packet created by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). This training course must be overseen by a qualified BACB certificant and can be provided within the individual’s agency, through a training company, or university coursework. After completing this coursework, a qualified BACB certificant must complete a competency assessment of the individual seeking the RBT certificate. If the individual passes the assessment, they can apply to take the RBT exam at a testing center. This exam is based on the RBT task list outlined on the BACB website.

An RBT is also bound by a code of ethics outlined by the BACB (available on the website). This means RBTs must remain within professional boundaries. They should not accept or give gifts, food, or drinks from a client or their family. Additionally, an RBT cannot engage in any relationship with a client or their family for at least two years following termination of that RBTs working relationship.

When an RBT is providing services, they must actively engage with the client and follow behavior protocols, or teach procedures outlined in a previously agreed-upon treatment plan. They cannot be babysitting or tutoring a client. Engaging in either of those activities can result in a dual relationship and create an environment more difficult for ABA therapy to be delivered successfully.

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