What Does an ABA Therapist Do?

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Updated: February 5, 2024, Reading time: 7 minutes

What Does an ABA Therapist Do - featured image

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Applied Behavior Analysis is aimed at improving specific behaviors of individuals with developmental or behavioral challenges.

Banking on their knowledge of principles of behavior analysis, ABA therapists are capable of creating and implementing effective intervention plans that will help individuals enhance their everyday lives over the long run. In addition, there are several types of careers to consider in this field.

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Below are the typical things that ABA therapists do as part of their practice:

Perform comprehensive initial assessments to evaluate the individual’s behavior and needs.

ABA therapists have various methods to conduct their initial assessment of their clients. This includes reviewing the medical history and other relevant documentation that provides background information, observing the clients in various environments, conducting interviews with them and the people close to them, and administering standardized assessments.

The therapists will also conduct a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA), which explores the underlying reasons for challenging behaviors.

Set measurable goals and objectives for their client.

Together with their supervising BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst), the ABA therapists review their findings from their initial assessments to identify the priorities for intervention.

They also take into consideration the goals and preferences of their client (and the client’s guardian/family) as well as the input from caregivers, teachers, and other important people in the support network.

ABA therapists also conduct a detailed behavioral analysis that breaks down complex behaviors into smaller, measurable components.

Design and implement personalized behavior intervention plans based on ABA principles.

The importance of ensuring that behavior intervention plans are personalized is to ensure that the strategies are specifically tailored to the client’s needs, considering that each person has unique challenges and different ways of learning.

Whether it’s the modification or the improvement of a behavior or the development of a new skill, a customized intervention plan allows ABA therapists to incorporate suitable activities to achieve the desired results.

Conduct one-on-one therapy sessions to teach and reinforce positive behaviors while reducing maladaptive ones.

When implementing the therapy plan, the ABA therapists do so in an environment that’s conducive to learning. The setting should also provide a predictable environment by implementing clear and consistent routines so that the clients will feel secure and stable.

Collect data during therapy sessions and analyze feedback.

Collect data during therapy sessions and analyze feedback. - Image

ABA therapists must collect data from their therapy sessions to ensure that they have the facts from which they can measure the progress of their clients and make informed decisions on the next steps to take. Data collection and analysis are also beneficial for assessing the effectiveness of the interventions.

Maintain detailed and accurate client records.

ABA therapists need to maintain session notes and data sheets, among other documentation of their clients’ records, so that they will be able to track the progress of the individuals over time systematically. It’s also essential for effective communication with caregivers and family members.

Most importantly, maintaining accurate records ensures continuity of care in cases when information has to be provided to other professionals or caregivers for a coordinated approach to the individual’s treatment and support.

Collaborate with caregivers, teachers, and other professionals.

ABA therapists must work closely with the people involved in the client’s care to ensure that the behavior support plans are implemented consistently across various settings like the home, school or workplace, community, and clinics.

They will maintain open and regular communication with these people to discuss the client’s progress and challenges, as well as to provide updates on necessary adjustments to the intervention plan.

Train and guide caregivers and families on implementing behavioral strategies and techniques.

Caregivers and family members play a significant role in the overall well-being and development of individuals receiving ABA therapy. Training the client’s loved ones will ensure the consistent implementation of strategies, continuous support and reinforcement, and a more collaborative approach to the client’s care.

With caregivers and family members actively participating in the process, the support becomes holistic, leading to significant enhancement to the overall progress.

Provide support to individuals and their families in coping with and managing challenging behaviors.

Dealing with behavioral challenges can be difficult, especially for those who are not well-versed in the complexities of human behavior.

ABA therapists have a solid foundation of the concepts of behavior and their real-world application, and thus, they are well-equipped to help families and everyone in the clients’ support system when it comes to understanding and dealing with their loved ones with behavioral and developmental challenges.

Monitor the individuals’ progress and make necessary adjustments.

ABA therapists have to regularly monitor the progress of their clients in order to ensure that they’re on the right path in achieving the objectives of the intervention plan.

By taking a constant look at the progress, ABA therapists can make the necessary changes to the behavior intervention plan to ensure that strategies remain effective considering the clients’ progress and any changing circumstances or environment.

Help individuals with behavioral challenges develop life skills that promote independence.

Help individuals with behavioral challenges develop life skills that promote independence. - Image

Going through everyday activities and conducting social interactions can be difficult for individuals with behavioral and developmental problems.

ABA therapist can apply their skills and knowledge of behavior analysis to promote independence in their clients so that they can have a sense of autonomy, self-confidence, and greater control of their lives.

This also prepares the individuals for long-term self-sufficiency that allows them to live fulfilling and productive lives as they go through various life stages. These types of services are rewarding for the patient, as well as the therapist.

Adhere to ethical standards set by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board.

ABA therapists, especially certified professionals, are bound to the ethical standards and guidelines set by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) to ensure that the well-being and rights of clients are safeguarded. It also fosters professional integrity that reflects the therapists’ commitment to responsible practice and high-quality care. 

Ethical guidelines, especially those that an industry-recognized organization sets, also provide professional boundaries that keep conflicts of interest at bay and maintain the integrity of the therapist-client relationship.

It also promotes cultural sensitivity that allows ABA therapists to deliver competent services that respect the client’s values and beliefs.

Pursue continuous learning and professional development to be on top of the latest in the ABA therapy field.

ABA therapists must constantly engage in education and professional advancement, considering the importance of the services they provide to their clients. They must always be updated with the latest research and best practices in the field so that they can provide the most effective interventions.

More importantly, ABA therapists can obtain continuing education units (CEUs), which are necessary when applying for the recertification of their professional designation. Doctorate degree programs are available as well.

Advocate for the benefit of individuals with developmental disabilities.

Due to their specialization and expertise, ABA therapists advocate for the rights and needs of people with developmental and behavioral conditions or who are diagnosed on the autism spectrum within the community. They educate the public about these developmental challenges in order to promote understanding, debunk misconceptions, and combat stigma.

ABA Therapists promote the inclusion of these individuals in community programs and services, as well as for the promotion of accommodating and accessible environments. 

Bottom Line

As an expert in ABA, you must be properly trained to provide the most productive and efficient treatment available. ABA therapists essentially provide personalized and evidence-based interventions that promote behavioral changes and skill development for people with developmental challenges and related conditions.

ABA therapists don’t just focus on their clients but also extend support and training to caregivers, family members, and loved ones in order to encourage collaborative and holistic care. This ensures consistent implementation of the intervention plans, especially outside of the clinical setting. 

Various ABA-related careers include jobs in special education, occupational therapy, and speech and language pathology.

ABA therapist salaries depend on education, experience, and location.

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