This post is the written version of the podcast episode with the same title – it was episode 12, part 1 was released on 1st February 2021 and the second part on 8th February 2021. Click here to be directed to our podcast page or you can search for “Chirping with ABA Owls” on apple podcasts or Podbean – this post is a summary of what is discussed on the episode.
In this post you will find information about:
– What is a BCBA, BCaBA and a Supervisor.
– Why do you need a supervisor or certified person.
– Who should you hire.
– When should a consultant or supervisor visit.
– How do you find a consultant/BCBA.
– How much will it cost.
– Ethical guidelines for BCBAs.
– Becoming a BCBA.
What is a BCBA, a BCaBA and a Supervisor
If you listen to the podcast, you’ll know that we like to divide our topics into WH- questions. We understand that there are many acronyms in our field and that it can become quite confusing.
BCBA stands for Board Certified Behavior Analyst – there are 3 types of BCBAs, the BCBA-D (D stands for doctoral level), BCBA (has completed supervision hours, sat and passed the BCBA exam) and BCaBA (the lowercase “a” stands for assistant).
BCBA-D is the highest rank in ABA, people holding this qualification have finished a PhD in ABA.
A BCBA is a person who has completed their qualification and is able to fully fulfil the duties of a consultant: creating targets, procedures, behaviour plans, reviewing data, training others (such as carers, parents, tutors, other professionals), etc..
BCaBA has completed their supervision hours and exam, but the amount of hours will be less in comparison to the ones required of a BCBA, and their exam will not be as extensive. For these reasons, BCaBA is considered the lowest rank in the consultant qualification.
A person can first become a BCaBA and later complete the necessary requirements to achieve the BCBA qualification. They can also choose to complete the BCBA qualification and skip the BCaBA stage.
In a lot of home programmes there are supervisors – these are people that do the same tasks as a BCBA (or consultant) but they are still guided by a qualified BCBA (or at least, they should). When a BCBA is busy, they might delegate some duties to the supervisor.
Supervisor is not an official position within the BACB (Behavior Analyst Certification Board). Typically, supervisors are people working towards the BCBA qualification, but that is not always the case.
Different people have different experiences, and you will come across people with a BCBA qualification who might have only worked in one type of setting or they might have worked in different environments. There are some supervisors that are as experienced as a BCBA, but don’t have the official qualification.
We’ve both come across situations where people who have been home tutors for a while, but haven’t pursued training or further qualification, start calling themselves supervisors. Of course there are tutors who ask for training, and actively learn about ABA procedures, etc., the ones who don’t, end up having gaps in their knowledge.
When you interview someone and you need to make a decision, look at their CV, ask questions about the settings they worked in, talk about your particular situation and what actions they would take.
In the field of ABA, it’s really important for a person to work in the field they’ve had training and experience on – if you’ve always worked with autistic children, you’d need training before working in OBM (Organisational Behaviour Management).
Why do you need a supervisor or a certified person?
When seeking specialised help, having people trained in the area will make a difference in the results. The same way doctors, lawyers, police officers and others receive training, so do ABA professionals.
As you may know, ABA stands for Applied Behaviour Analysis, it is used to modify behaviour – it is imperative to have someone who has been trained because this field actively intervenes in people’s lives.
The professional who gathers all the information about the client, will also be the one making the decisions: they will look at what areas need intervention, how should the goals be run, are they measurable, are they appropriate? There are many questions we ask ourselves as consultants and supervisors when implementing an ABA programme.
As the person hiring the BCBA or the supervisor, don’t be afraid to ask questions – Ask the professionals about their qualification, their experiences. It is not insulting to try to understand if a person’s abilities are suited for your situation.
Who should you hire?
There are quite a few variables when you have to decide who to hire. You need to consider the type of programme you have, what your needs are, how much input is needed, are you planning on going through the tribunal process in order to have ABA in school?
Usually a BCBA (aka consultant) is hired, they have the recognised qualification and (should have) the necessary experience to support their clients.
BCaBs and supervisors can also be equally competent, but keep in mind that people in these two positions should have the support of a BCBA.
Something you should consider carefully when choosing someone is: how comfortable are you with this person? Do you feel they will be a good addition to the team?
We will repeat this many times: ask questions. Find out about their experience, ask them how they would act in a relevant situation to the client.
When should a consultant or supervisor visit?
The frequency of the consultant’s or supervisor’s visits will also vary according to each situation. By this we mean: what are the client’s needs? Do the tutors need training? Is input needed at school? Is the team around the client established or new? Is the programme already set up or new?
There is also a difference between team meetings and workshops. Team meetings will be a catching up between the team on the programmes already implemented. A workshop will involve training, either on a new programme or on a current programme that needs more support.
These two might intertwine at times, but we’ve found that we can use our time much more efficiently if we decide beforehand what type of meeting we’re having. We’d ask the team if there is anything they want to address and plan accordingly.
Covid-19 has had a big impact on how we conduct meetings – it has raised the question if every meeting needs to be in person. There was a period when face to face meetings weren’t possible, so we had to find ways to support our clients long-distance. Online meetings can be quicker and more efficient, but there are certain situations where on-hand training is necessary – which can be quite hard to perform through video meetings.
How do you find a consultant/BCBA?
1) Go on the BACB website and look for “Find a Certificant”. The BACB keeps a registry of all BCBAs and RBTs who have achieved a qualification before January 2022. This might have changed due to the new rules on how to become certified.
2) Facebook groups have a lot of parents/professionals advertising – try “ABA tutors/parents” or “ABA 4 all”. There are many other groups, you just need to search key terms such as “ABA”, “autism”, “tutor” etc.
3) WhatsApp groups. These require an invitation, but it doesn’t hurt to ask others if they know of any chat group (you can enquire online or in person).
4) Word of mouth. It is quite common for people to recommend professionals they are happy with.
When deciding on a BCBA or supervisor, ask for evidence of qualification. This can be their BCBA number (so that you can look them up on the BACB registry), their master’s diploma, training certificates, performance evaluations or even letters of recommendations from previous clients.
It is not offensive to ask for these things, this is work, it is absolutely normal to check qualifications.
How much will it cost?
Discussing money has always been a difficult topic for many people, but it is a necessary area to address.
Most of our experience has been in the UK, therefore our knowledge of rates will be relevant to this country.
The ABA field does not regulate fees, causing rates to vary greatly. They vary from country to country, vary from area to area (within the same country) and from professional to professional.
How much you pay a consultant or supervisor will also depend on the services they provide and the amount of time they can dedicate to you – we find it important to list every task we perform, as it allows our client to know exactly how much time we spent on each area of the programme.
You don’t have to settle for the first person you interview – you should be happy and comfortable with your choice.
We know that several people might be reticent when they hear the rate per hour, but also consider the fact that if you are hiring a BCBA, they would have had to pay for their exam, for their masters and for their hours of supervised work. Even after achieving their qualification, BCBAs have to complete 32 learning credits every 2 years and re-certify their qualification – this is another extra expense.
Other questions that arise are: should the employer pay for transport? Parking? Petrol? Food? Admin time (time spent doing paperwork)? The answer for all of these is: it depends.
Transport – is it a long commute? Are you, the employer, adamant in having this particular consultant come to you? Would you be willing to pay part of the commute? As a professional, is the commute worth it?
Parking– Is parking expensive in the client’s home area? Is there an alternative parking nearby? Does the employer have visitor discount parking?
Petrol – discuss it. Personally, we choose not to charge petrol as it was our choice to use a car.
Food – Accepting food from employers may lead to multiple relationships (see the BACB ethics code section 1.11), where the line between professional and personal can become blurred. Is there a place nearby where you can buy food? Can you bring a packed lunch? We advise caution in this area.
Admin – Is it a new programme? Does it need more admin time to set up at the beginning? Could you agree on a budget for admin time? Is the budget time enough to maintain the programme being run effectively? Have the employer and the consultant had a discussion where it is clear the amount of time necessary for admin work?
Ethical Guidelines for BCBAs
This area is very important to ABA professionals, anyone practising ABA should be acquainted with the BACB ethics code, even if they don’t know it by heart. The ethics code has been recently updated and these changes are now applicable from January 2022 onwards.
When starting a new programme, it is important to be aware of section 2 and 3 of the ethics code, “Responsibility in Practice” and “Responsibility to Clients and Stakeholders” (respectively). These sections contain information about the BCBA’s duties, guidelines in setting fees, what is expected of them, etc.
Becoming a BCBA
If you are interested in becoming a BCBA, all the information will be on the BACB website. They also provide pdf manuals for the different qualifications. There’s a BCBA handbook, an RBT handbook
We both did our masters online and travelled to our university once a semester to attend lectures – we found that working in an ABA school really impacted our ability to understand the field and our performance in our studies.
Thank you for reading such a long post, we hope it has been helpful in some shape or form.
You can also follow us on Instagram (@ABA_owls), send us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org or leave us a comment below.
Thank you for reading,
Carla and Lauren