Photo source:, 

You may be a parent still coming to terms with your young child’s diagnosis, or maybe you have tried various interventions and therapies for several years now. 
A question I get often from parents is “What’s the BEST treatment option for Autism”, or, I encounter parents who do not know the difference between treatment option A or treatment option B.
It isn’t unusual for me to meet a new client who wants to start ABA therapy, yet they have very little understanding of what ABA is, and many incorrect ideas about what ABA can do. All they know is their doctor, a teacher, or cousin so-and-so kept insisting that their child needed ABA therapy.

Then there are the parents who wonder about lack of progress. Their child started therapies A, B, & C from a young age, but several years later the child is not quite where everyone thought they would be. There is no easy answer to this question, and even professionals don’t fully understand why 2 young children with Autism can receive similar treatments but have very different long term outcomes.
I will say that the impact of treatment intensity cannot be overstated. I come across families all the time who have been doing a little bit of speech therapy, or a little bit of occupational therapy, or a little bit of social skill groups. All too often, this low intensity will lead to small skill gains.

If you are completely new to my blog and just want to know, what in the WORLD is ABA? This post  should help you out.

However if you aren’t so new at this, and just want someone to explain the dizzying treatment choices for Autism, then I’m here to help! :-)

So first, the disclaimer:
There is no way I can summarize in a brief blog post every single treatment option that exists all over the world when it comes to Autism. This post will talk about the more common options that are usually available in most states (Notice I didn’t say accessible, or affordable, I said available). Also, treatments/strategies without empirical support won’t be listed here either. Please, no matter which treatment you are considering for your child, be a critical and informed consumer. Don’t waste your time, energy, and hope, on strategies/interventions that just don’t work.
End of disclaimer.

So the basic treatment options will include medication management, inpatient facilities, special needs schools/day programs, and community based services. Let’s take a closer look at each option:

This would be some type of medication to treat the symptoms of Autism prescribed by a Psychiatrist, Developmental Pediatrician, etc. While these professionals can offer recommendations and monitor/evaluate the effectiveness of various medications, they likely will not provide direct assistance/intervention to your child.
These programs are often short term in nature, as they can only accept so many individuals at a time (e.g. 9 children). For some of these programs, specific entry criteria must be met such as the child must be a danger to themselves or others. It is very important upon discharge from this type of treatment that the child is referred to services from a community provider (see below), as progress gained can be lost upon discharge.
Schools/” Autism” Programs
Whether these services are part of the public school system, a special needs private school, or offered on site at an inpatient facility, these are educational programs that offer therapeutic goals/behavior support as well. My tip? Be sure to ask who is designing behavioral interventions, and are strategies function based. Also, the curriculum needs to be functional and individualized. I see so many meaningless IEP goals that say things like “Student will be able to identify 5-8 colors”, but things like toileting, self-feeding, or waiting, are MUCH more functional goals that need to be worked on.
Community Based
Occupational Therapy, ABA Therapy, Speech Therapy, Counseling/Social Skill Groups, all of these can be included as community based options. This category basically refers to outpatient treatment, provided at a clinic setting or in your home. Again, intensity is important to consider. While the advantage of a community based provider is that we can come to YOU, in the setting where behavioral help is most needed, if therapy occurs 1x/week it’s unlikely that is intensive enough to bring about significant improvements.

For my ABA peeps:
 Photo source: www.mostmetrocom

What is your elevator pitch?

The "elevator pitch" or "elevator speech" basically refers to your ability to concisely and simply explain what it is that you do in a super brief amount of time. Like, the amount of time it takes to ride the elevator from one floor to the next.

As massive, broad, and variable as your job as an ABA clinician can be, there is the added burden that the person asking "So what do you do?" is usually a layperson who does not want some super long and boring technical answer. Skip the jargon, please.
But if you give a super brief answer ("I'm an ABA Therapist") the average person will have NO idea what that is, or could have a lot of wrong/outdated ideas.

So whats a good pitch?

This video gives some good tips a from a business perspective.

Or you can copy my pitch, which while far from perfect, typically results in the other person leaning forward excitedly and saying "Wait, WHAT job is this????"

The coolest elevator pitch ever: 

"I'm a Behavior Analyst. I have a job I am passionate about where I get to help some of the most amazing kids in the world. I teach people how to increase or decrease all kinds of behaviors in ways that are really effective, and long lasting. Most of my work is done at home on my laptop, but even when its not I have a flexible schedule and lots of variety to my workday. There isn't anything else I'd rather be doing, and I DON'T hate Mondays."

Photo source: www.icanandiamcom

*If you work in the field of ABA or have benefited from ABA therapy and would like to share your story and experiences feel free to contact me directly*

 Photo source:,

Its been about 71 years since I posted an ABA interview, but now your patience is being rewarded :-)

This awesome interview is with Andrew, who lives in Massachusetts. Thanks for sharing Andrew!


  • If you would like to, state your name.  Andrew

  • State your job title. I work for a couple of companies; titles include Applied Behavior Analysis Therapist, Applied Behavior Analysis Instructor, and Direct Therapist.

  • Where do you work? I work in and around Boston Massachusetts, United States.  

  • Do you work independently or for a company/agency? I currently work for four companies.

  • How long have you been an ABA therapist/professional in this field? I have been a Behavior Therapist for roughly 8 months.

  • Did you receive initial training for your current position? Do you receive on the job training in your current position (from a BCBA or equivalent)? Yes, I received the requisite training for the R.B.T. credential at one position and on-the-job training at all of the other positions. For each position I receive weekly supervision by either a B.C.B.A. or B.C.A.B.A.

  • How confident are you in your capabilities as an ABA therapist (from 0-100%)? In my capabilities? 100%. My current skill level, though, is probably around 50 to 60%. I am still new to the field and have a lot to learn! With the proper supervision and experience I have full confidence in my potential as a behavior therapist and, eventually, an analyst.

  • How much do you make per hour? After deducting gas, reinforcers, supplies, etc., do you feel your hourly rate is high enough? I make $20, $22, and $25 dollars per hour. I am partially reimbursed for gas and materials are provided by the companies. Yes, I believe that the rates are fair.

  • Do you feel more confident with skill acquisition or behavior management? That’s a tough question. I used to tutor so I am good at teaching academic skills but that experience is limited to college students. I used to work in a psychiatric hospital and have seen a lot of behaviors and have experience with de-escalation. My experiences so far in the field of applied behavior analysis center around behavior management as opposed to skill acquisition so I am probably stronger in managing behaviors.

  • Describe some of the problem behaviors you deal with, when working with clients. Some problem behaviors I deal with are bolting, non-compliance, physical aggression, property destruction, and self-injurious behaviors.

  • What ages do you work with? Most of the clients I work with are between the ages of 6-8 years old.

  • What populations do you work with? Of the clients I currently have, one has a developmental delay and pragmatic communication disorder, another had a debilitating stroke when younger, another student has A.D.H.D., and two clients are diagnosed with autism.

  • Explain how you got started in ABA. I have a background in the behavioral health field. I worked for a suicide hotline and in a psychiatric hospital during college. I also had experience doing research. Applied behavior analysis attracted me because of how closely data informs practice. It is one of the only helping professions that completely integrates research and practice. When talking about mental health or psychiatric conditions the only thing that practitioners can base treatment decisions on, and judge progress by, verbal reports. What constitutes or qualifies as mental illness is open to interpretation and based on loose definitions. In applied behavior analysis behaviors are specifically defined and directly observed. The idea that progress is empirically tracked and treatment decisions are based on data is comforting.

  • Before you started working in this field, what did you know about ABA? Before starting in the field I knew that applied behavior analysis was based on the fundamental behavioral principles of reinforcement and punishment. Besides that, I knew next to nothing about applied behavior analysis.

  • Describe a typical work day. It’s tough to say what typical workday is because most days are different. During the week I start my day at a Boston Public School and see 1-2 clients each for 1-2 hours each. Of the 2 hours I spend about a half hour on session notes and graphing data. After spending time at the first school, I travel to a second Boston Public School to see a student for two hours. Then, I typically travel to a suburb of Boston to provide home-based services. I also provide home-based services on the weekend.   

  • What is the BEST part of your job? The best part of my job is seeing progress in the data; making a socially significant change to a person’s life.

  • How many times a week do you feel stressed, overwhelmed, or discouraged at your job? I usually do not feel stressed or overwhelmed. I do, sometimes, feel discouraged. Sometimes I feel incompetent when I do not see the changes I would like to see. I chalk this up to normal insecurities though. I do my best not to let it interfere with what I do (besides using it for motivation to do better).

  • How do you deal with the stresses of the job? I listen to A LOT of music. If I am not working, I am listening to music. In fact, I am listening to music while writing this!

  • Do you prefer working: in home, in the school, in the community/ clinic settings? Why? At this point, I don’t have enough experience to definitively say I prefer one setting over another.

  • Do you receive support and active involvement from the families of the clients you serve? Do you wish you received more? I suppose I do. I get along with parents and most are very supportive and thankful for the work that I do.

  • What have been your best and worst experiences with a family/parent? The best experience I have had so far is when I received a text with a video of the client walking along a counter independently for the first time. It was a major milestone and it was amazing to see! I try not to judge things as bad so I can’t really think of a particular worst instance.

  • Do you plan to pursue BCBA certification? Why or why not? Yes, I am in graduate school now and plan on getting certified in June of 2017! It seems like a logical next step.

  • Name 3 things you wish you could change about your job. I would change my schedule so that I am working between 40-50 hours during normal times (i.e., 9-5 pm). Right now I work late mornings, early afternoons, evenings, and weekends, for anywhere between 20 and 35 hours. The times are different every day.  Some consistency would be nice! I can’t think of anything else I would want to change. Scheduling is my big pet peeve!

  • Name 3 things you wish more parents knew about ABA therapists. I am not sure there’s anything about applied behavior analysis therapists that I want parents to know but I think that it’s important that every parent learn some of the basics of applied behavior analysis to equip them to advocate for themselves and child.

  • Where can we find you?

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