(Today’s post is written by guest writer, Laura Seale.)
If you are studying towards a degree in special education, there is a need for trained professionals in the Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA. Applied Behavior Analysis (often termed Applied Behavioral Analysis) is a field of study and research that has extensive scientific basis for success in treating behavioral issues in children and adults, including autism. Autism can run on a spectrum from very mild (usually diagnosed as Asperger’s Syndrome) to very serious issues, with low-functioning autism. Some children struggle to develop speech or can only use one sense at a time.
Applied Behavior Analysis offers hope for individual autism sufferers and their families to develop creative ways that each person can work with their disability to function effectively as possible in the world. Now that more is known about autism, including the spectrum of severity of symptoms, this has highlighted the increasing importance of tailoring treatment to each individual case. Unlike with a traditional illness, in which symptoms can be similar between sufferers, even symptoms within family members with autism can be dissimilar. Learn why more families are adding a behavior analyst to their child’s treatment team and how you can be a part of this evolving career tract.
Before you can work in the field as a behavior analyst, you will need to have the proper credentials. Your first step will be to get the adequate education, which often means studying towards an education or a special education degree and earning your teaching certificate. There are different levels of certification for bachelor’s degree and master’s degree candidates that are outlined on the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) website. From here, the next step is to become board certified as a behavior analyst. While varying states handle the issue differently and to date there is no uniform consensus, becoming a board certified behavior analyst is the best and quickest way to ensure you will not later hit obstacles in your career because you never took this step.
Because the BACB is a respected nonprofit organization that administers the only recognized certification program for behavior analysts, whether you plan to start your own consulting business or work within a school district or private practice group, obtaining your board certification showcases your credentials and preparation. In fact, it can elevate you above other behavior analysts who lack this valuable credential.
Understand Your Role
Once you have earned your board certification, your next step is to understand how you will fit in with a team that is supporting an autistic child as well as their family members. Because often the family members are the least skilled at managing their autistic child’s symptoms but the first line of support for that child, applying your behavior analysis skills with an autistic child will be involved in analyzing the family dynamic and the behavior of family members. In addition to this, you will be developing strategies specific to how that child behaves as well. For instance, if the autistic child throws a temper tantrum, the family may have grown accustomed to responding in a certain way, even if way is not entirely useful. The whole family will enter into a period of behavior modification and education to learn how to best function as a family, while still supporting the autistic child.
A Behavior Analyst is Part of a Team
In this capacity, you may find yourself working in a team setting with the child, the parents and siblings. You may also find yourself in a classroom situation with the child’s regular teachers. You may even be in administration, with a child’s private therapist and physicians along with other professionals and supportive persons. Your behavior analysis skills may be applied to studying and completing homework, communicating through words and behavior, paying attention and retaining information, socializing with others, teaching basic life skills and helping the child transition into higher grades or even a part-time job as they get older. In this way, as a behavior analyst, you can play an essential role in supporting autistic children and their families in ways that were unheard of just a few years ago.
Image provided by Lance Neilson from Flickr’s Creative Commons
About the Author: Laura Seale is studying to be a special education teacher. She has worked with several students with autism during the past few years; following her graduation, she will be working toward her PA teaching certification.