We know that a new diagnosis or a new professional recommendation for ABA therapy can be quite overwhelming. We also know that there are many ABA companies in the area, making it even more overwhelming when you begin your search for the best fit for your child. The following are suggested questions that you can ask when you speak with potential ABA companies:
1. How long has the company been in business?
Of course the longer the company has been in business, the more likely it is that they have successful protocols and policies in place, as well as a pool of satisfied clients.
2. What is the average length of employment for both BCBA's and RBT's?
A common issue in the field of ABA is high therapist turnover. Look for companies that have high employee retention rates, indicating that employees feel supported and happy in their position. In addition, having multiple therapists starting and stopping with your child due to this turnover can be quite problematic and counter productive to your therapeutic goals.
3. What type of kids/diagnoses do you typically work with? What is the age range of kids that you work with?
Some companies choose to "specialize" in a certain area, such as children under the age of 12, those only with an autism diagnosis, etc. Ask them what specific experience they have with the profile of your child, for example, "Do you work with teenagers in the community setting who need help with social skills?"
4. Do they use a naturalistic approach, and/or what is their general teaching philosophy?
Again, some companies choose to specialize in a certain area of ABA, such as "Discrete Trial Teaching" (known to some as "table work"), while some like to incorporate other ABA methodologies such as Natural Environment Teaching, Pivotal Response Treatment, etc. The best answer would be that the consultant assesses the child and uses the method that they think would be best for teaching given your child's current needs.
Also, look for responses that focus on the happiness and fulfillment of the child (and family unit) via means of personal motivation, reinforcement, and socially significant goal development. If you are concerned about other (unfortunate) negative issues that are associated with ABA, such as "making my child a robot" or the use of punishment, you should certainly ask as well. (Just know, that these are NOT endorsed by the professional ABA community, so we surely hope that these are not part of your ABA experience!)
5. How often will you interact with the BCBA?
The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) has recommendations for the amount of time that a BCBA spends supervising RBT's. It is about 2 hours for every 10 hours of direct therapy. Ask if the company follows these standards as well as what their typical recommendation is for "parent training" which is another important aspect of a home program. Some companies even encourage their BCBA's to do direct work with the client to ensure that they have a good understanding of the child and this can only help with helping to train other members of the therapy team. Information on the supervision standards as well as all of our governing standards can be found here.
6. What is the parent involvement in a session?
Good ABA companies should encourage a team approach and collaboration at all times. Parents should be encouraged to be a part of the session. Parents know their child best and the information that they provide is invaluable.
7. Will the BCBA collaborate with the school?
Look for BCBA's who are willing to attend any school meetings, help to develop the IEP, and/or collaborate directly with the teacher on an ongoing basis.
8. Questions about insurance
Since ABA is covered by some insurance policies for children with an autism diagnosis, you might have questions about what this would look like. If you are comfortable with exploring your out of network benefit for ABA, you can ask about that as well. We provide a script to any potential clients that they can use to call their insurance, and perhaps potential companies might be willing to provide similar questions as well.
9. Do you have a minimum number of hours requirement?
Some companies have a minimum number of hours per week that they require, typically between 20 and 30. While some children may require this number of intensive hours, others may not. If you feel that this may be an issue, you should clarify on your initial call.
We hope that these questions can help you to refine your search as you speak with various ABA companies in the area. We know that this is a daunting endeavor, but we have confidence that you will eventually land with the company (and people) that best fit your needs.