What Is a BCBA?

Your child’s ABA therapy team includes professionals dedicated to helping your child with autism build skills. What is a BCBA and what is the BCBA’s role?

When your child with autism participates in ABA therapy, they might work with several different therapy professionals, all dedicated to helping your child overcome barriers and build skills for a successful life. A BCBA is an important part of your child’s therapeutic team. But what is a BCBA and what, exactly, is their role?

BCBA is short for Board Certified Behavior Analyst, which describes the credentials and work of a BCBA, according to Ashlei Lewis, MS, BCBA, LBA, Assistant Clinical Director at Gateway Pediatric Therapy in Livonia. A BCBA holds a master’s degree in applied behavior analysis or another field like psychology or education. They complete certification coursework, plus 1,500-2,000 supervised hours to work with clients and carry out other BCBA tasks before sitting for a certification exam. BCBAs are required to recertify every two years and must complete continuing education credits. In Michigan, BCBAs are also licensed.

“Your BCBA is the supervisor of your child’s case and oversees their growth,” explains Lewis. “A BCBA is skilled in observing behavior and analyzing data to figure out why behavior is happening. They work to increase behaviors that are beneficial to your child or decrease dangerous or disruptive behaviors.”

Working closely with a Behavior Technician, a BCBA creates a child’s individual therapy plan that includes customized goals with a roadmap for achieving those goals, then supervises the technician’s one-on-one work with the child to make sure the plan is implemented optimally. “We also tie everything together by consulting with speech, occupational, and physical therapies, and can support parents at IEP meetings,” Lewis says. “We do everything necessary to help achieve the very best outcomes for your child.”

A day in the life of a BCBA

Managing the therapeutic plans of a dozen or more children, Lewis says on any given day she works with several Behavior Technicians, observes their interactions with clients and analyzes data to make adjustments. She also meets with parents and caregivers to share progress and learn family goals for ABA therapy.

“I go into families’ homes or even accompany them to the grocery store to model techniques and teach strategies to family members so they can mirror some of what we do in the clinic setting,” Lewis adds. “I also sit in on IEP meetings at your child’s school to collaborate and share ideas with the educational team.” She also completes assessments, graphs and analyzes data, and creates behavior support plans, including visual pictures and step-by-step instructions for tasks.

What to expect from your BCBA

In Lewis’s experience, a high level of parent involvement is key to a child’s success in ABA therapy. Insurance covers a minimum of one hour each week of parent support, and this is a family’s time to get help and learn success strategies to try at home.

“We encourage parents to meet with us so we can all talk about what we are working on and parents can share their areas of struggle,” Lewis says. “We can also suggest strategies to help prevent difficult behaviors from happening, like avoiding bedtime meltdowns by providing a 10-minute warning or a visual timer.”

Because ABA therapy isn’t supposed to continue forever, BCBAs work to implement progressive strategies for the best outcome. “Our goal is to help your child achieve success and help them navigate their community independently. We make sure the skills we teach stick.”

Gateway Pediatric Therapy offers best-in-class ABA therapy services at 13 locations in Michigan. Learn more at gatewaypediatrictherapy.com.


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