I’m a parent of a child with autism. What should I look for in an ABA organization?
Being a parent of a child on the autism spectrum has been a unique journey, and one I wouldn’t trade for anything. Even so, I remember watching my son as a toddler and thinking, “Wow, all of my decisions for him are going to be different than those of my friends and my coworkers. Different than almost everyone in my life.”
As he grew older, there came a time when we had to focus on behavioral services. Living in Hawaii, there weren’t a lot of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) programs available, unfortunately.
And for the few that did exist, it became an investigating game for my husband and me to find one we felt was suitable for our son. How were we supposed to know what organization was qualified? How could we be sure their staff was trained to work with the autistic population?
As a parent, I thought choosing an ABA organization was similar to choosing a pediatrician or a dentist: they are board-certified, so they must know what they are doing. Surprisingly, because the field of ABA is new (unlike the general medical profession, which has been around for more than 25,000 years), just because someone is board certified in ABA does not necessarily mean he/she is a seasoned clinician.
Did you know more than 50 percent of Board-Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) have been certified in just the last three years? This means there are many new people hoping to help newly diagnosed children and their families.
Seeking certified staff is a great first start, but there are other indicators of a quality service organization:
1. Who are the BCBAs on staff, and what is their experience?
- How many years of experience do they have?
- What types of settings have they worked in?
- What age range of children have they worked with in the past?
2. What are the backgrounds of the direct care staff who will be working with your child?
3. Does the company conduct background checks?
4. How much supervision will the BCBA provide each week for your child’s therapy?
5. What methods will be used to keep you in the loop regarding your child’s progress?
6. How do they ensure the safety of your child?
At the end of the day, organizations that have committed to continuous improvement and quality standards are the ones that have always stood out to me as a mom. Witnessing the highs and lows of behavioral therapy with my own child, I knew I wanted to make a difference in the ABA industry.
That’s why I decided to commit to helping parents of children with special needs find quality care, and why I am now the Development Director of the Behavioral Health Center of Excellence, an international accrediting body for autism service providers.
I’m an autism service provider. How can I ensure my organization stands out?
With hundreds of autism centers in the United States, it’s important to appeal to families in a way that assures them you’re a quality choice. But with so many organizations, sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know. Maybe you have a small staff.
Maybe you just opened. Or maybe you live in an area saturated with ABA organizations and you’re struggling to find ways to be unique and retain well-trained staff. This is where the guidance of an accreditation process can really be helpful.
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At BHCOE, our clinical evaluators do a deep dive into what’s currently happening within an organization and then help outline a roadmap to strengthen the weak spots. Growth in any form is continual, and that should be the case for businesses, too.
I’ve been lucky to get to know several business owners throughout the years and here’s some of the feedback I’ve been given once they earned their accreditation:
- Their confidence level increased, and therefore staff turnover decreased.
- They saw an increase in client retainment.
- They received benchmarking data that played into their yearly business strategies.
- And for those with multiple locations, they saw a decrease in variance of practices between offices.
Accreditation isn’t a one-stop-shop to success. It’s a process that takes dedication and commitment from an entire team. But when you, as a provider, can confidently welcome in new families and know you’re offering quality care, the process is well worth it.
Now that we’re in the midst of a pandemic, how do I navigate telehealth?
Whether you’re a parent or a provider, COVID-19 has led to a spike in telehealth care. Although telehealth isn’t new, its sudden integration into the lives of families of children with special needs has been anything but gradual. Staff have had to quickly learn how to ethically provide telehealth services.
Parents have had to adapt to the functionalities of online care. And while everyone is doing their best to keep their head above water, it’s no surprise finding the time to research quality providers has become even more challenging.
If you’re a parent wondering if telehealth is the best option for your child, there are fortunately numerous resources available. Depending on the age and cognitive level of your child, telehealth may be a reasonable option.
If you’re truly considering services via telehealth, it’s best to check with your child’s physician for recommendations that will meet your child’s specific needs. Seek providers who value the role of parent participation, utilize a parent-training curriculum, and, most importantly, interview the providers to ensure they are a good fit for you and your family.
If you have other children, look for a provider who will support the development of a good relationship between patients and their typically-developing siblings.
And if you’re a provider wondering if the telehealth accreditation process is the best fit, I recommend reviewing a telehealth checklist. The process addresses five key issues as it relates to your business: organizational compliance, human resources, patient intake, clinical practice and technology, and privacy and security.
With the pandemic has come an array of webinars touching on telehealth. You’ve likely researched new terms and practice guidelines. Yet, it’s still a new territory for many business owners.
What specific systems are needed to ensure ethical and effective service delivery when it comes to telehealth? This is when a telehealth accreditation can set your business apart from the rest.
Individuals with special needs deserve quality care
I’m thankful I’ve been given the opportunity to be an advocate for the autism community. My son has opened my eyes to many things—but the one area that stands out the most is the importance of having people fight for quality care and services.
I look forward to the many years ahead of speaking up for those who need a strong voice.
This article was featured in Issue 107 – Caring for Your Autism Family