Saturday, August 11, 2012

So You Want to be a Superhero...




*Suggested Reading: Super Hero Recruitment

First you will need some tights…

Oops, wrong post.

So you want to be an ABA Therapist! It’s almost like being a superhero, except we have better hours, better super- powers, and working on weekends is optional.

I’ve been getting a lot of emails recently from people interested in entering the field of ABA, but not sure exactly how to do so. I’m excited to be waving the flag for ABA, and hopefully motivating people to enter the field.  The main reason I started this blog was to reveal to people what ABA really is (because there are many myths out there) and if that causes people to want to become an ABA Therapist, I think that’s great!

I talked briefly in my FAQ post about how to get started in this field, but this post will go much more in depth and provide details.

I can’t give a specific "How To" guide, because much of this information will vary from state to state. Also, for my international readers I don’t have much information about how people outside of the US can get into the field of ABA. This post is more of a guideline of general tips. To anyone with an interest in pursuing ABA as a career I recommend doing research for your particular area and networking with people currently in the field.



How do I become an ABA Therapist?


-     What exactly is an ABA Therapist?:
      It's important to distinguish between an ABA Therapist and a Behavior Analyst. BA’s supervise, manage,  and run ABA programs as Consultants. ABA Therapists are the lifeblood of the ABA program, as they are the ones who work with the child day after day to teach skills. As an ABA Therapist you are usually responsible for teaching very specific skills, and implementing a behavior plan.  ABA therapists can also work with a variety of clients, not just kids with Autism.  There’s a growing demand from schools who want ABA services for typically developing children who have behavioral issues. So ABA Therapists really can work with anyone who is in need of behavioral services.
-    What’s it like being an ABA Therapist:
      The clients you work with will take you from joy to frustration in 0.2 seconds. On Monday your client could be excited to see you and give you a huge hug, and then on Thursday they might try to bite you. Even if you only work with one client, every day won't be the same. That's whats so great about this job: if you have a bad session you get to hit "reset" and start over again the next day. If you are a person who loves sameness, routine, and predictability, you might not enjoy this type of work. The field changes all of the time, parent expectations can change, the behavior plan can change, the programs change....did I mention you must like change??
-    What kind of person would be a good fit for this job?:
      Anyone who is PASSIONATE about special needs, detail oriented, energetic, and loves to learn. Parents often feed off of the enthusiasm of the ABA Therapist, and feel encouraged by it. It’s important that as an ABA professional you enjoy learning, because you never stop learning and growing when this is your job. Research and technology change all the time and so does this field. You have to be open to receiving supervision and correction, even if you have been doing this for years. If you aren’t a person who can take constructive criticism then this likely isn’t the job for you!
-    I’ve heard some horror stories; do ABA Therapists really get bruised and injured at work?:
      Short answer? Yes. :-) Here's the scoop: as an ABA professional you usually have control over who you work with. You could choose to only work with cognitively impaired adults, or only work with high functioning teens. The majority of my work experience has been skill acquisition with young children. So I haven't been in situations where big, strong teens or adults have attacked me, thrown desks at me, groped me, shoved me against a wall, bent my fingers back, etc. Do all of those things actually happen? YES. That would be called a severe behavior client.  The good news is you shouldn't be thrown into situations like that unprepared. Your employer should provide physical management training, there should be a behavior plan in place, and if applicable a crisis plan. So I suppose my answer is, it is possible you could really get injured depending on the clientele you work with and the training you are given.
-     What are the hours like? :
      There’s a lot of variability as far as scheduling, but if you work inside homes with young children  then you'll probably have early morning hours. If you work with school age children you'll have evening hours unless you see the child at school. If you work for an agency, you will likely have a jam packed schedule of various days and times, sometimes with really unpleasant huge gaps in your schedule. You know the kind...not enough time to go home, but too much time to just sit in your car. Working weekends should not be mandatory. If you burn yourself out with a hectic caseload then what do you have left to give to your clients?
-     Where can I find ABA jobs? :
      This can be a bit tricky. It’s always easier to find an ABA job when you already have one, because families will refer you to other families. If you are looking to break into the field I’d recommend working for an agency first. You will get more clients and supervision than you would with an individual family. Research the ABA providers in your area, and contact them to see if they need ABA Therapists. If they don’t hire inexperienced therapists, see if they have volunteer positions so you can gain experience. You can also try your local or state organizations for ABA, as they often allow members to post job openings on their website.  If you are currently a college student, often the heads of the Education or Psychology departments will have leads on ABA jobs/practicum sites.



RESOURCES:
If you are interested in becoming an ABA Therapist, here are some resources to locating work. Its pretty easy to gain Autism experience due to the steadily increasing diagnosis rates. I'd recommend taking an intern or volunteer position first to make sure this is something you want to do before committing to a paid job. This field isn't for everyone, and thats okay. This is high energy, stressful work, often with frustrating or aggressive individuals....it may not be your cup of tea.


GA Parent to Parent Network -Georgia statewide agency for parent support, has a database of companies and providers.


Craigs List - Agencies often post ABA jobs here under the education section.
Craigs List


Behavior Analyst Associations - Look up the Behavior Analyst association in your state. These websites usually post career opportunities, or if not, you can contact members directly to see if they have job leads. For GA, the state association is GABA.


www.Google.com- Google “Autism treatment” or "ABA therapy" and the name of your city, and see what comes up.


AIBA- Association of International Behavior Analysts (has a job directory).


Autism Link- Autism information website, has a provider database.


Autism Speaks- Leading Autism information website, has a provider database.

39 comments:

  1. This is such an helpful blog..and yes there is no routine in this job...i love how you described it:
    "It's awesome, frustrating, rewarding, tiring, stressful, fun, exciting... and unpredictable. In other words, it’s a very unique job with good days, bad days, and "ugh" days. The clients you work with will take you from pure joy to extremely frustrated in 0.2 seconds. On Monday your client could be excited to see you and give you a huge hug, and then on Thursday they might start screaming when you walk into their house and try to bite you. Even if you only work with one client, every day won't be the same"

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  2. This is so helpful for me thank you

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  3. Many many thanks to you for your blog! Great job you doing! THANK YOU Tameika!

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  4. I am officially inspired! Applying to colleges this year as a psychology major to work towards becoming a certified ABA therapist! Thanks!

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    1. You are very welcome, good luck in school!

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  5. I have been working in a group home of clients diagnosed with Autism, never is their a dull moment. I'm always prepared for the worse but love when it's at the best. Seeing them accomplish that tiny goal like sweeping, coloring in the lines, or plan writing their name, might seem like nothing to some people but to me that's a goal; an amazement. I never knew about ABA therapy and would love to continue my career in this, I hope to find something in my town. I've only Been doing this a year but a year doesn't seem like enough, I want to learn more and continue to grow with anyone with a disability.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You sound like you caught the ABA bug! Congrats :-)

      Good luck finding opportunities in your area, trust me the need is GREAT for passionate ABA professionals.

      Delete
  6. Thank you so much for this blog. I just started my Master's in Clinical Psychology and have wanted to work with kids from the start. I only recently learned of ABA and have been researching and this is exactly what I want! I have started looking and even had a phone interview this morning. The information here only confirmed that this is the path I want to take! Thank you again!

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    1. Well congrats, on finding the path for you!

      I stumbled into this field as well, I knew nothing about ABA when I began college. For some of us, its just like getting hit with the love bug. You just know when this is for you :-)

      Thanks for visiting the blog!

      Tameika

      Delete
  7. Hi! Thanks for the blog, super informative! I feel like I am in a different boat than others that want to start ABA. I just graduated in May 2014 with a Business/Finance degree. I moved to a new city with the hopes of finding a position in this field, however no luck yet. I've always had the "what do I want to do with my life" question running through my mind especially during my job search, but recently ABA keeps popping up!

    I used to work with kids with autism at the Y as an inclusion counselor and that was by far my favorite job EVER. I've had a passion for working with these kids and educating my friends about autism ever since. I can't deny the voice in the back of my head that says that ABA is what I want to do.

    What is stumping me is what first step I should take. I am open to volunteering in my off time, but I still have to pay the bills! I have been planning on returning to school in the near future anyways, but I'm not sure what programs and/or licenses I need to apply to or if I even qualify for psychology-type programs with my Business undergrad degree. This is my main obstacle right now!

    Any advice whatsoever is helpful! I figure if this career path has kept popping into my head ever since I saw it first hand with some of my Y campers, I want to give it a fair chance. Hey, it could be my calling!

    Thank you in advance! :)

    Rachel

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    Replies
    1. Hi Rachel,

      Glad you found the blog!

      My experiences starting in this field were very different. I was a young college student ONLY looking for part time work, and I didn't need a high income (which was good, because I made almost nothing). For someone to enter this field, especially now that the new RBT credential is coming out, it often requires many steps and sometimes cost is involved. For example if a company hires you as an independent contractor you often have to purchase your business license, obtain liability insurance, and may be responsible for your own supplies. It really depends on the company. So for someone just entering the field I would say get a FT job that will pay the bills. Then add on just 1-2 ABA clients through a company (less overhead and more training) rather than working on your own. As an entry level ABA therapist salary is not high. This varies greatly by state, but to give you an estimate in my area entry level ABA Therapist positions pay about $10 an hour, and you could easily spend $200 a week just on gas from all the driving around.

      As your experience grows and once you obtain certification, then you will be in a position to look for more competitive positions within the field of ABA.

      The BACB website is your best source of information about next steps regarding graduate school and certification. Their website is www.bacb.com

      Good Luck!

      Delete
  8. Hi tameika,

    i live outside the US and there arent much training centers here for ABA so im planning on taking online training courses to know more about the field. Can you recommend good online courses/schools that give such training. thank you

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    Replies
    1. Hello,

      There are plenty of resources for online training, coursework, or webinars for people who do not have local access to companies/agencies who provide training:

      http://www.fit.edu/bst/ceu/distinguished.php
      http://www.autismtrainingsolutions.com/
      http://www.bmcsoutheast.com/professional-training-center/
      http://www.centerforautism.com/continuing-edu.aspx
      http://www.maximumpotentialkids.com/abacourse-1.htm
      https://www.rethinkfirst.com/Default.aspx

      Delete
  9. good day tameika!

    i think i caught the aba bug! but i just dont know how to start, there are not that many opportunities here in our place to help me gain experience. i really want to learn more about this and hopefully be certified. i feel like this is what i am born to do.

    by the way, how is an aba therapist different from a registered behavior technician? can i be both?

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    Replies
    1. Good Day!

      I would suggest pursuing online college coursework, webinars, or trainings if you do not have local access.

      An ABA Therapist is just one title that can be used to refer to someone who works as direct level staff to provide ABA therapy (you may also hear ABA tutor, Behavioral Staff, ABA technician, etc.). The main difference is the Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) title refers to someone who is BACB approved to have met specific education, training, and experience requirements to perform ABA therapy. So basically, a RBT is someone who has gone through specific steps to achieve certification that is recognized by the BACB.

      Another big difference is that pretty soon many funding services or companies will only hire RBT's....if someone doesnt have that credential they may be unable to find work opportunities.

      Here is more information about the RBT: http://bacb.com/index.php?page=101118

      Delete
  10. For the past year and one half ive been searching for what id like to go back to school for. Earlier this year my son was diagnosed with ASD. After lots of research, seeing how his therapists have helped him and now this blog...I can not help but think ABA has to be it. So thank you!

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    1. Yay, I love comments like these!
      The biggest compliment I can get is that someone has an interest in ABA/working in this field after reading something I wrote :-)

      Good luck to you and your son,

      Tameika

      Delete
  11. Hello!
    I am a recent psychology and sociology grad and I am applying to behavioral therapy jobs, I have no previous experience with ABA but I am more than willing to learn. I have my first interview and I was wondering if you have any tips on what kinds of questions to expect, what is the correct way to deal with tantrums/hitting/biting etc., and how much detail I should know about specific ABA techniques. Thank you for your amazing blog, I am learning so much through your posts and it is making me feel better about my upcoming interview :)

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    Replies
    1. Hi there,

      I have a post about what to expect from an ABA position interview, I hope its helpful Here is a link: http://www.iloveaba.com/2012/03/interview-other-side.html

      Delete
  12. thank you so much I have a project on what I want be and I have know from the start this is what I wanted to be and after reading thing I know that this is the job for me

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  13. That is so great! Good luck in the field :-)

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  14. Hi, does being an ABA Therapist require a great deal of writing/paperwork? Can it all be done on computer?

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    1. Hello,

      For the ABA therapist, paperwork usually is a session note and data collection at the most. I have worked some places that put more paperwork responsibilities on staff such as progress report writing, but usually admin responsibility falls heavily on the BCBA (not the direct staff).

      I assume you mean can paperwork be done electronically? If that is what you mean, that really depends on where you work. Some of the bigger companies are all electronic nowadays, and use iPad or phone data collection. Then again, some companies still use regular pencil and paper :-) Just depends.

      Delete
  15. Can you please inform as to the education requirements. Is ABA therapist a 4 year degree or is a Masters required.

    Thank you so much

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there,

      If you mean becoming a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT), this link explains what is required: http://bacb.com/rbt/

      "ABA therapist" is a title that is not universal, so the education and training requirements will vary. You would need to check with employers in your area to see what the hiring requirements are for direct staff, and they may or may not refer to them as "ABA Therapists".

      Delete
  16. Hi,
    I work with special needs student's in a local school district, as a one on one para, with a student diagnosed with pradi willi syndrome, and pursuing my masters in social work, I have a undergrad in psychology, and Associates Health Studies, please tell me on what route and how I can get ABA certified . BTW I truly appreciate this blog site! Supporting autism and special needs is my calling of my ministry.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Lashica,

      Thanks for checking out the blog!

      The RBT credential is the only BACB recognized certification for direct level staff. Here is a link for more information about the RBT process: http://bacb.com/rbt/

      Delete
  17. Hi Tameka,
    I stumbled upon this blog. I have studied School Counseling but I have not found any employment. I have realized that I am more of a one-on-one person who likes to be on a more flexible schedule. Would an ABA therapist position be an alternate route for a candidate such as myself? Thsn you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello!

      I do think your training as a school counselor could transfer well to this field. Its very different, but there are also some similarities. The 1:1 is typically what pulls most school based professionals into our field....being able to adapt and modify a curriculum based on what the individual needs is often lacking in classrooms.

      The BACB website (www.bacb.com) will provide you with specific information about the education and training requirements needed to enter this field.

      Delete
  18. I really love the blog and how you even comment back to the comments. Thank you so much. Well i just lost my job and decided to work with special needs kids etc. And I just recently had a phone interview with the ABA company. So Im really excited now reading all the information that you are giving. Just hoping that I will get that phone call to working.

    WISH ME LUCK!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much!

      I think that is awesome, we need more passionate people in this field who want to do amazing work :-)

      Delete
  19. I just started as an ABA Therapist last month. I went through training, passed my test and now I have 2 kids! It is great but... this is my only job and I want more hours. I work for an agency. How do I ask for another kiddo or seem eager to get more time with some other kiddos?

    Thank you!!

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    Replies
    1. Hi there,

      There can be many reasons besides your inexperience why your caseload is currently small such as minimal available clients, or your specific availability does not match other open cases. Or, you may have been hired only to fill the cases you are on currently.
      You won't know for sure what the reason is unless you communicate with your supervisor and explain you need more hours. Good luck!

      Delete
  20. Hi, Tameika. Thank you for this great blog! It's been so helpful especially since I'm just now completing my first week of aba therapy work. I even mentioned it to one of my supervisors.

    I have lots of experience working with children of all ages mostly in school settings or babysitting in their homes for both typically developing and children on the spectrum.

    When I applied for the position I was excited and I felt confident that I was capable of performing well after being trained and given some time.

    However, all confidence is completely gone after my first session alone. I observed one session with another therapist and then the next day I was on my own. I received a week of training. For me, and perhaps my way of learning, the way the training was presented did not allow for the information to stick with me. There's also a great deal of paperwork which requires a level of multi-tasking I didn't think existed! This has me so overwhelmed that I'm considering resigning.

    I'm currently feeling incompetent and thinking maybe I have a learning disability. A supervisor came out on one session to be with me and support me, but even then with all the paperwork I still couldn't feel like, given time, I'd eventually do well with juggling ten sheets of data while working with the child and the parent and also timing programs and keeping tabs on time so I don't go over my schedule.

    Personally, the paperwork is what gives me anxiety. My clipboard could barely contain the sheets. Working with the child and his behaviors doesn't overwhelm me. I've seen my share of behaviors and have even been bitten by a teenager that towered over me. This is part of the job, but filling in ten sheets of data... it doesn't let me sleep at night.

    I'm a recent graduate with a BS in public health and starting an MSW program in two weeks. I'll have a field placement working with youth and substance abuse. I love working with and helping people reach a level of quality in their life that benefits them and those around them. That's why ABA interested me. But now, I'm discouraged and feeling inadequate.

    My future plans are to become a clinical psychologist. But I feel that my ABA experience has chipped away at my confidence a bit.

    What advice can you give someone who's experience has been a bit disheartening ?

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  21. Hi there,

    I'm sorry to hear this has been such a disappointing experience for you so far. Firstly, this field is not for everyone. Just like any profession, some people have to actually try it to realize its not for them. So that is something you need to consider, as only you can answer that question.

    I recommend sharing all of this information with your supervisor (or if you have multiple BCBA's over you, perhaps meeting with the at once). It is part of the supervisor's job to make sure the direct staff are supported and competent in their role. Some of what you describe is normal: yes, there is a steep learning curve to adjust to the multi-tasking demands of being an ABA therapist. My new staff often struggle with that the most; learning how to do 10 different things well, and all at the same time. BUT, there are lots of ways the supervisor can make this easier on you. I have lots and lots of ways I can design a datasheet, sometimes I even design all-in-one sheets. It depends on the case, and the clinical expertise of that staff. I am not going to give a complicated data collection procedure to someone brand new to the field...I would spend a lot of time modifying what I expect from them until they have developed more of a skillset.

    If you feel your training was lacking, that is also something you want to share. You may have the option of repeated or extended training, or simply remediation in specific areas. All of these are issues you want to speak up about because it is likely being assumed by the management that you are now ready to fill your role. If you are NOT ready, that needs to be communicated quickly so they can provide you with more support.

    Good luck to you!

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