Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Behavior consultants: Who are they and how to find the right one?

There is confusion about this strange breed of professionals known as Behavior Consultants. They are not psychologists, but deal with behavior problems. They are not teachers, but teach socially significant and functional behaviors. They are not Speech Therapists, but teach communication. They are not Occupational Therapists, but deal with sensory deficits and excesses.

So, who are they? 

The California Association for Behavior Analysis presents an interesting article about this on its website: http://calaba.org/AAMR-BehConsultantsFlyer.pdf

The article was developed by representatives of three major professional organizations: the psychology division of the American Association on Mental Retardation, the MR/DD Division (Division 33) of the American Psychological Association, and the Association for Behavior Analysis.
As the article explains, board certified behavior consultants, or analysts (BCBA’s) are “professionals with documented graduate training and supervised, hands-on experience in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), and have passed a special examination in this area.” This program is managed by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (please, see www.bacb.com for more information, including a Certificant Registry).  
I especially like the following paragraph from the article:
“We suggest you do not use a behavior consultant who focused mainly and solely on reacting to the problem behavior unless a crisis or other particular circumstances warrant this focus. Focusing only on reacting to the problem behavior will not prevent it from happening in the future and does not represent current best practices. In crisis situations or in the case of an escalating behavior problem that requires immediate action, treatment should address both immediate concerns and preventing strategies, such as changing the environment and teaching appropriate alternative skills. In most other cases the main focus of behavior consultation should be on skills development.”   
Because of a shortage in trained and experienced behavior consultants, I recommend you look for programs directly supervised by BCBA’s. We will assess the meaning (function) of the problematic behavior and be able to determine an appropriate course of action. In other words, an experienced behavior consultant will be able to determine what the individual is telling us through his/her behaviors, what she/he needs. We will measure the current status (baseline) of the problem in quantifiable terms (numbers) and set goals accordingly. We will teach desired replacement behaviors so the individual can communicate his/her needs appropriately. We will measure each step of the process and compare it with the baseline and the goals in order to monitor the effectiveness of the program. We will make changes if those measurements show lack of progress. We will recommend consultations with other professionals when the problem goes beyond our scope of practice. And we will go to the natural environments and train all caregivers (parents, teachers, etc.) in the process so behavioral gains can be generalized across settings and maintained across time, even though when we are not there anymore. 
In summary, we are trained in behavior management and best practices on how to implement these programs. And we are ready to help you.

Daniel Adatto, BCBA

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