Once parents realize how safe and effective ABA is for their children, the first question that they have is about finding the right provider. Dr. Jacob Boney, owner and clinical director of Scottsdale Pediatric Behavioral Services, often hears this question, and it usually sounds something like…
“What should I look for when trying to find an ABA provider? Since you’ve convinced me that ABA is safe for my kid, I want to know what kind of indicators to look for to determine if an ABA provider is high quality or not.”
Whether you are located in an area like Scottsdale, where there are a larger number of choices or somewhere that is more limited, it can be difficult to sift through the different ones and know which will work and be the most effective. In an effort to help parents determine the right fit, Dr. Boney has created a checklist of things to look for.
What to Look for in an ABA Provider
- Experience: Experience is critical. How many of years of experience do they have? What is their specialty? What kinds of patients do they see? What kind of training do they have and where did they receive training? Does their experience align with the profile that your child presents? Look for someone with at least three to five years of licensed experience, with a significant amount of experience treating issues similar to your child’s.
- Supervisors: Typical supervisory hierarchy in an ABA facility will usually start with leads who are Board Certified Behavioral Analysts, BCBA, under those are Board Certified Associate Behavioral Analysts, BCABA, and then behavior technicians or registered behavior technicians. At Scottsdale Pediatric Behavioral Services, there are typically two supervisors for each case, a primary and a secondary, which leads to higher quality of care and opportunity for professional collaboration. Questions to ask include: How many supervisors will be involved with my child’s case? Who is the primary supervisor and how much experience does he or she have? How involved with my child will the primary supervisor be and how accessible to me for questions and feedback? A red flag to watch for and something you do not want is high supervisor turnover or changes.
- Direct Care Staff: Insurance companies normally pay for behavior technicians to do much of the direct service and then also pay for supervision from a BCBA. The quality of the direct care staff is very important. At Scottsdale PBS, Dr. Boney requires that all technicians become registered through the behavioral certification board and be college educated with a minimum of two years of experience. Ask about the training and years of experience for the technicians doing the direct care. How will they be supervised while on your child’s case? What kind of continuing education are they required to do? How much are they paid? What is the average turnover rate? Higher wages and lower turnover rates are indicators of a more professional and career-oriented staff which translate to better, more consistent care for your child.
- Website: A company’s website should be more than a marketing tool: it should be a major investment as a resource for patients. The website should be useful in informing patients and potential patients about the company’s vision, mission, and values. It should be a place to learn about the staff and the kind of care provided. The website should be updated frequently to provide continually updated resources on current issues for patients. If a company does not have a website, that could be a red flag.
- Availability: Look for this in the very beginning. Is the supervisor available and ready to give you a tour of the facility for free, without any requirement or pressure to make a commitment first? Having to fill out paperwork or jumping through a lot of hoops before even being able to meet or talk with someone is not a good indicator that they are going to be available after you become a patient. Make sure they are willing to answer questions and explain a typical course of treatment. How comfortable and confident they make you feel in the very beginning will tell you a lot.
- Expertise: You should feel like your provider is an expert, not only in behavioral science but also in your child and your child’s needs. They should be knowledgeable about all the issues that you have questions about and should educate and update you on your child’s issues, as well as current trends in treatment that relate to your child. If you do not feel your provider is an expert, why pay them all that money and not be confident in the treatment your child is receiving? Find a provider that does have the necessary expertise.
- Data: Constant tracking of date is critical. That is how they make decisions on your child’s treatment. Dr. Boney employs a full-time data person who keeps track of all data and records it within 24 hours of service delivery. Parents can request their child’s data at any time and have it digitally emailed to them in an instant. Parents can then offer feedback or request a meeting that can be scheduled within 48 hours. Providers should be constantly tracking and updating data and have decision protocols in place for reacting to that data.
- Options: Important to have options for treatment. Flexibility is a key component of the science of ABA. Dr. Boney tells patients that they have “nothing but options”. Treatment can be provided in multiple locations and multiple ways. Hearing that treatment can only be provided one way should be a red flag. That will most likely be to the agency’s benefit and not to yours.
- Facility: A good facility is a great asset. It provides for frequent staff training and observation. Children need a safe, controlled environment for treatment and tend to respond better. Being treated at home can be very effective but children have significant learning histories and distractions in the home. Plus, treatment done in a facility means that there are supervisors on hand and available.
- Acceptance Rate: High-quality providers typically can only accept 30 – 40% of the patients that pursue services with them. Those that accept anybody and everybody and every kind of insurance and seem like they are just volume-based should be a major red flag. You want your child to be treated by an agency that treats the patients they want to treat, not the ones they have to treat. They need to be able to turn away the patients that don’t fit their strengths and accept according to the best interests of the patient and not the agency.
- Reputation: A good provider will have a good reputation, so ask around. Check social media and parenting groups. Ask who is doing really effective treatment with kids. Who is getting good results with the patients they are treating?
- Comfort and Connection: It is essential that you trust and feel comfortable with your provider. You must feel totally confident that they are competent and capable of giving your child the best treatment possible. You have to feel that your provider cares about you and your child and the only thing that matters to your provider is that your child makes progress. If you don’t feel these things, from the very beginning, don’t go there. Find a provider that does give you this level of comfort and connection.
Utilizing evidence-based practices and the scientific principles of Applied Behavior Analysis, the Scottsdale Pediatric Behavioral Services team provides assessment, treatment, and consultation for a wide range of behavioral issues. We work with a variety of children, families, schools, hospitals, mental health agencies, and local community organizations to provide these services. If you have any questions about how to find a quality provider or would like more information about any of the services offered by our team, please feel free to contact us by phone at 480.410.4040, email us at [email protected], or click here for our convenient online form.