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Becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst

Becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst

Becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst
by Theresa Basile
 
The quality of a school is only as good as the quality of its teachers; fortunately, BAC boasts a highly skilled faculty. Students are nurtured by an incredibly talented and caring educational team. Each instructor is hired with at least a bachelor's degree in psychology or education and often with extensive experience from other schools, centers or home-based programs. 
 
Because BAC's teaching philosophy is grounded in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) - a scientific approach to determining the environmental variables that effect behavior, we have a number of Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA's) on staff.  A BCBA is a graduate-level certification in behavior analysis. The certification to obtain a BCBA is a lengthy and rigorous process.
 
To become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), an applicant must have a master's degree in a related field (such as education or psychology), complete the necessary coursework, fulfill over 1500 hours of field work, and pass a comprehensive exam. Becoming a Licensed Behavior Analyst (LBA) in New York requires additional field work on top of the hours needed for the BCBA. As with any advanced degree, pursuing national certification is time-consuming and requires a significant financial commitment, but BAC instructors fulfill their required hours of field work through their daily teaching without breaking the bank. The fees they would normally pay to an off-site BCBA are nonexistent when they receive their training from Educational Director Julie Russell (BCBA, LBA-NY).
 
Over 50% of BAC's staff are pursuing national certification toward earning the title of BCBA and LBA-NY. This impressive number of staff seeking national certification has increased significantly over the life of our school. Part of this growth is due to the intensified rigor and standards to earn a BCBA and LBA. BCBA is issued on a national level while the LBA is issued on the state level, and professionals certified at either (or both) levels can work as independent practitioners of behavior analysis and supervise ABA therapists in a home or school setting.
 
The rigor and intensity of the training leaves all participants fully prepared to assume a larger role in the school and in the field of behavior analysis. Instructors in the program are assigned articles with the most up-to-date research in the field and discuss them in group meetings on a weekly basis. Observations and evaluations are regularly scheduled and instructors have multiple opportunities to receive feedback from their supervisors. They record their own teaching and complete frequent self-evaluations of their work. They analyze data, create and implement assessments, write behavior plans, and work 1:1 with students, all while having daily access to their on-site supervising licensed behavior analyst.
 
The instructors and interns in the program read the same articles and have access to the same data. They have the ability to bounce ideas off of each other throughout the work day. This well-rounded, collaborative way of learning the practice is one way that our program stands out.
 
The thoroughness of the training is in accordance with the expectations that come with a title of a BCBA. All of our instructors are highly qualified to teach children, but participants in the BCBA program are learning how to train other teachers and how to provide feedback. They learn the importance of continued oversight, how to supervise, and how to ensure the implementation of best practices in ABA.
 
Having a BCBA didn't always carry the pedigree it does today, but then again, Applied Behavior Analysis wasn't always a well-regarded field. For many years, public perception of ABA was negative, with many believing that the practice involved only punishment procedures and turned children into robots. Behavior therapists were supervised by psychologists, not licensed behavior analysts. The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) was only established as recently as 1998, during a time when behavior analysis was gradually gaining acceptance and respect as its own practice.
 
After field work and coursework is completed, the BCBA hopeful must sit for a six-hour exam. The pass rate of this exam has ranged within the 60th percentile in the last few years, similar to the rate of students who pass the bar exam. Julie's pass rate is 100%. Everyone she has trained over the years from instructors to interns has passed their exams the first time they sat for it. The behavior analysts she has trained have gone on to do great work within the larger autism community or been promoted into supervisor positions at BAC to train new instructors beginning their careers in the field.
 
The reputation of the BCBA training program has drawn a record number of applicants to our school and participants among our staff. At the same time, the requirements of the LBA have increased dramatically: participants must now complete 2500 hours of field work before sitting for the exam. BAC created a new position to meet these increased requirements, and Gabrielle Brigandi (BCBA, LBA-NY) is now the Associate Director of Staff Training who will resume all duties related to BCBA supervision. Having earned both of her advanced degrees at BAC under Julie's supervision, she is thoroughly prepared to train the next crop of leaders in the field of behavior analysis.