Applied Behavior Analysis programs are set up and run by Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA). The BCBA’s role is to create and supervise the program. This entails doing an initial assessment to get to know the child, creating a program based on the child’s skills, training a person or a team of people to implement the program, and finally continuing to train and supervise the program over time.
Because of the consultative nature of a BCBA, it is necessary for parents to find someone to be trained and implement th program. There are a few different ways to go about this, and ultimately the decision comes down to family preference.
Who to Consider
Hire an instructor who is a student studying a related field. This person may be a college or graduate student that is studying in your area. This person may be studying a field like Special Education, Speech Pathology, Psychology, Occupational Therapy, or if you’re lucky Applied Behavior Analysis.
Train a caregiver that already works for the family. Often in the countries I work in the families already have caregivers who help with their children. In some cases this works very well and in others it is a complete failure. Implementing an ABA program is hard work and there should be very clear expectations about how the caregivers position will change and an increase in compensation should be considered. Caregivers often know the child very well, and if they are willing to take on the effort of the position, they can be quite successful.
A parent opts to be the child’s instructor and be trained implement the program. Some parents choose not to hire anyone and one of the parents acts as the instructor for the program. This is definitely not expected by all families, but works extremely well for families that are motivated to pursue this route. If a parent is so well versed in their child’s program they can be highly effective in natural ways that occur outside of formally planned ABA sessions.
There are also “hybrids” of these choices. Sometimes parents will hire an instructor or two, but also get formally trained and do some of the ABA sessions themselves. Sometimes parents will hire an instructor and while the parents do not do formal ABA sessions, they attend all meetings and trainings so they can learn to encourage language and reduce problem behavior effectively.
Generally the advice I give parents is to focus on the individual person vs. how much experience they have. While experience can be valuable in certain cases, it is not the number one indicator of success for an instructor. In my opinion it comes down to the the candidates personality and work ethic.
I have worked with caregivers in Kenya who do not even have high school degrees and they have blown me away with their creativity, drive, and dedication to implementing the program. I have worked with people with Masters degrees who have difficulty understanding and implementing the program properly and are also resistant to feedback to improve. This is obviously not always the case, but something to be aware of as you consider your candidates.
Questions to Consider When Choosing a Candidate
Are they motivated? Are they driven? Are they naturally good with children? Are they creative? Do they understand that doing the program is NOT baby sitting? Do they understand that running the program will require paper work/data collection? Do they seem like someone who will take initiative? How do they take feedback on their performance?
Ways to Find an Instructor
- Talk to other parents of children who have ABA programs. Other parents usually have a network of parents they know and may know of an instructor that is available.
- Contact local university programs (i.e psychology, special education, speech pathology).
- If your child already sees an occupational therapist or speech therapist, ask them for recommendations of potential instructors.
- Use social media sites (like Facebook) to put out job postings and network with other parents.
Take your time when choosing an instructor to implement your child’s ABA program. The quality of this person is vital to the success of the program and your child’s acquisition of skills. While you may want to rush to start the program, it is highly important to find the right instructor before moving forward.
Parents Considering the Instructor Role
If you are a parent who is curious about taking on the role of instructor for your child’s ABA program, but are not sure yet, consider enrolling in our Language Launch program. This program is designed for parents and focuses on teaching parents to implement a basic language program with their child at their own pace. This program can be implemented with as much or little intensity as you choose. Doing the Language Launch program may give you a sense of how much you are willing to take on and the degree to which you want to act as an instructor in your program. For more information on Language Launch, click here.