A co-worker of mine gave me the idea for this post, while we were discussing how when we initially meet with a family or school we get asked variations of the same questions over and over. Of course, most people don't realize that the questions that come to their mind also come to alot of other peoples minds. I find it somewhat amusing and perfectly normal to get asked the same questions over and over.
I decided to make a brief list of the questions I get asked the most --complete with answers--when I meet with a family or a therapist for the first time. You might see a question or two that you remember asking the first ABA professional you worked with.
- "What is ABA anyway?": To summarize (because this can be a very short or very long response), "Behavior Analysis" is a behavioral science that researches the most effective ways to reduce or improve a variety of behaviors, such as aggression, communication, self-stimulatory behaviors, etc. "Applied Behavior Analysis" is taking these strongly research supported tools and strategies and applying them to everyday environments to help individuals function.
- "How much will all of this cost?": There is huge variability in this field when it comes to fees. Many factors effect rates such as location, number of hours per week, size of ABA team, is the program supervised by a BCBA, etc. I would say an average rate for an ABA therapist charges $15 per hour. Average rate for a BCBA is $60 per hour. The average number of therapy hours needed each week would be between 25-30. Besides private pay, some parents get grants or scholarships from the state or private businesses, get the school district to pay for ABA, or get reimbursement through their insurance companies to pay for ABA therapy.
- "When will this be over/How long will we have to do this?": This is not a question with a quick answer, but new clients ask me this all the time. Which I can completely understand a parent wanting to know when therapy will be done. Let me give you an example of why this is such a hard question to answer: If I start working with a child who is 2, nonverbal, and tantrumming every few hours, we will have lots of intensive goals to target. As that child makes progress and begins to improve in their functioning, could therapy stop? Yes. Do parents typically say "Okay she is talking now, we can stop this"? No. Almost no one says that. Parents then say "Well what about toilet training? What about feeding issues? Can you work on church attendance?", so then the program goals change and evolve into different areas. So I suppose my answer would be, whoever is paying for services can determine at what point therapy is "done".
- "Can you get my child to do _____/Can you get my child to stop doing ____?": The short answer is: Probably. ABA is a behavioral method, so anything that is a behavior can potentially be modified by ABA. This includes language, tying shoes, using the toilet, hugging a sister, doing homework, walking the family dog, kicking the cat, cursing, wandering away from the house, etc. If its a behavior then ABA can be used to teach/improve/or reduce it.
- "Can you just move into my home/Can we adopt you/Please don't ever leave!": Yes, people really say this to me! This is a completely understandable reaction to a successful treatment method that appears to work like "magic". However, it is my goal as an ABA professional to show a client that I am not a magician and I don't carry a wand in my purse. With proper training they can learn how to apply ABA techniques themselves That way they don't need me to move into their guest room :-) because they know how to do what I do.
- "My husband/wife will never follow this.": This is basically a consistency issue. When I meet with one parent and they tell me immediately how the other parent is against ABA, or not fully on board, I explain how critical consistency is to success. Limited consistency equals limited success. Part of ongoing parent training is emphasizing the need for a team approach and getting everyone on the same page.
- " I really think my wife/husband/parent has Autism too!": Statistically, there is somewhat of a genetic link to Autism. It isn't unusual that an uncle, grandparent, or parent is somewhere on the Spectrum or has some other neurological disorder. The great thing about what I do is by teaching parents how to challenge and support their child with Autism, I also am giving them strategies on how to deal with their spouse/family member with Autism.
- "Have you ever cured a child from Autism/Have you ever fixed a child using ABA?": I don't use words such as "cure" or "fix", because my focus is on improvement. What ABA does is help correct deficits, teach skills, and push these children to reach their full potential. Each child's ability to progress during ABA therapy has a lot of influencing factors including: severity of diagnosis, age child began therapy, how intensive was the therapy, the quality of the therapy staff, etc.
- "My child currently receives ABA therapy at home. I am considering ___ therapy. Which therapy is the best/Which therapy should I pick/Which therapy should I stop doing?": What I would suggest to any parent considering a new therapy or wanting to end a current therapy is look at your child's individual needs. What deficits do they have? What strengths do they have? Focus on therapeutic methods designed to address your child's needs. Look for methods that are empirically supported (research showing the method is effective) across a variety of settings or individuals. Look for methods that include the parents in therapy, and also address behavioral issues. I often see new therapy methods that become very popular but if the child has challenging behavioral issues then they cant participate. If a professional expects to teach a child with Autism, then encountering challenging behaviors is quite likely.
- "How did you get into this field/How can I get into this field?": I explain this a little bit in my Bio, but I stumbled into my career. I didn't plan on ABA as a career when I entered college and I had no knowledge of Autism. In my freshman year of college I started working part time as an ABA therapist and I "caught the bug". I felt like I had the most interesting, amazing job in the world. I decided I wanted ABA to be my career and not just a PT job, so I began the necessary steps towards becoming a BCBA. If you are interested in ABA as a career I recommend contacting agencies and companies that provide ABA services. I would suggest an agency rather than a family because with an agency you will be provided with training and multiple clients to work with rather than just one client. This field has a massive demand for fun, energetic professionals, so if you think you want to be a Superhero then I welcome you!
- "How much do ABA therapists make?": There is great variability as far as pay depending on your location, if you work for a family vs. an agency, your education and experience, etc. I would estimate that ABA therapists can make anywhere from $12-$20 per hour. BCBA's, Lead Therapists, or Consultants can make anywhere from $25-$60 per hour.
- "What is the best/worst company to work for?": Like many ABA therapists, I have worked for different agencies, companies, and schools. There is a high turnover rate in this field. There is no "best or worst" place to work. Any company or agency will have its pros and cons. Decide what is most important to you as an employee and select agencies that have those characteristics. For example, are you comfortable working at a large company with hundreds of employees or do you want to work for a small agency where everyone knows each other? Do you want to work within your local area or do you want to travel to see your clients? Do you want to work with young kids or with adults? Find an agency that has the characteristics important to you, and who respects and values their employees.
- "How do you handle rude/resistant/confrontational parents?": Conflicts with parents can happen, and they do happen. Usually there are a ton of internal things happening with that parent, and unfortunately the person they choose to take it out on is you. Another factor that can lead to conflict is many parents of these children also have Autism or some neurological disorder. I have encountered families where the child has Autism, and the parent has Aspergers, or Depression. Dealing with a parent who has an untreated mental disorder is definitely tough. Try to take your feelings out of it and think about what that family may be going through. Talk to the family, explain why you are feeling uncomfortable, and try to resolve the problem. It isn't necessary for the parent to like you for you to do your job, but it is necessary that they respect you and can maintain a professional relationship. If not, you should stop working with that family.
- "I have been doing this for X amount of time. Why cant I get hired as a Lead Therapist/How do I get promoted?": This field is unique as far as experience and know-how. The more children you work with, the more you need to learn and grow and be comfortable with change. Some people describe it like this: "If you've met one child with Autism, then you've met ONE child with Autism". These kids are all unique individuals and they differ greatly from one another. This field is also rapidly advanced by research and technology, and what was done 5 years ago isn't necessarily done today. When I first started in this field, the technology that can be incorporated into an ABA session today was unheard of. As technology changes, I have to grow and change with it to better serve my clients. I have to stay flexible and be willing to learn and try new things, because what works for "Amy" might not work for "Tanisha". That is what can be so fascinating about this job, but its also what drives some people crazy about this job. For these reasons, I don't think getting certain degrees or a certain amount of experience means you are automatically qualified to lead, manage, or oversee an ABA program. What I have found is that more innate qualities, such as patience, flexibility, creativity, and leadership skills, are what make a great Lead Therapist or Supervising Therapist.
FAQ Part II
FAQ Part III