A quality ABA program should adhere to the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis and meet best practices in quality programming. All programs should be supported by data and result in meaningful improvements. Some of the essential elements that parents should consider when choosing an ABA provider include the following:
Appropriately staffed ABA providers utilize certified and/or licensed staff. A quality ABA organization will utilize Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) to oversee programming, and Registered Behavior Technicians (RBT) to provide direct therapy or other similarly credentialed staff. ABA providers should adhere to appropriate staff-to-patient ratios to ensure that each child gets the attention that they need. You can ask an ABA provider you are interested in working with how they train their staff, what level of education and certification their staff hold, and what their client-to-staff ratio is. A BHCOE accredited organization has had the quality of its staff vetted through observation, interviews, and surveys.
Safety should always be a high priority for your ABA therapist. Whether the sessions take place at home or in a clinic, an unsafe area could result in injury and a loss of valuable therapy time. In many cases, a quality ABA organization should have protocols to avoid physically managing children without their assent,, ensuring that there are no sharp or unsafe objects present, that there is a low risk of the child escaping the clinic during a therapy session, and ensuring that the furniture is arranged properly. These are all often overlooked details that BHCOE accreditation is able to address during our onsite visits and organization reviews.
3. Approach to Treatment Planning
While strategies used in ABA should be similar across providers, each child’s ABA program should be person-centered and individualized to their needs. A quality ABA provider will not have a one-size-fits-all approach to therapy. There are different approaches to ABA ranging from more structured, trial-based therapy, to more naturalistic play-based therapy. Ideally, these approaches should be chosen based on your child’s needs and their responsiveness to therapy. A quality ABA organization should have processes in place to guide skill-building and reduce challenging behaviors. In addition, a quality provider will ensure they receive consent from you as a parent, and assent from your child before implementing any new strategies or interventions. All of these should be based on the best available research and should be selected to reflect your family values and your family choice and preference. With a BHCOE Accredited organization, you can rest assured that we’ve reviewed these areas of your child’s ABA therapy provider.
4. Data & Documentation
The cornerstone of a quality ABA program is that a clinician will use data to guide all of their decisions. A quality ABA organization has a process for prescribing data collection and analysis procedures including the types of data to be collected, the method of data collection, the frequency of data collection, procedures for ensuring the reliability of data collection, and frequency of data analysis. As a parent, you should be involved in and aware of what skills or behaviors the clinician is focusing on, and how those behaviors are changing over time.
Prior to the initiation of services, a quality ABA organization provides, in writing, requirements for providing services, patient rights, financial agreements, and responsibilities of all parties. If terms change, the organization will notify parents/guardians and/or patients in advance of the new terms taking effect. Proceed with caution if an organization begins to provide treatment to you and your child without clear expectations on the financial burden to you and your family.
6. Complaint Resolution & Feedback System
A quality ABA organization regularly measures patient satisfaction and has processes for responding to the results of satisfaction measurement. In addition, before the commencement of service delivery, the organization should inform parents/guardians and/or patients how they can file complaints and grievances internally and externally about any service provided by the organization and with their accrediting body.
Accreditation is an important oversight component for any quality ABA organization. Accreditation demonstrates that the organization is open to external feedback from an independent third party. If you are asking an ABA organization about their Accreditation status ask them: 1) Who has accredited their organization and whether that organization is an independent entity, not owned or operated by an organization representing ABA providers 2) Whether the standards development is ANSI-accredited or not, and 3) How long that accreditor has been evaluating ABA organizations and under which standards. It’s important to stay informed and aware of your ABA therapy provider’s oversight body.