What does a BCBA do? What exactly does a day in the life of a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst look like?
The job title of BCBA or Board-Certified Behavior Analyst isn’t very well-known. Even people going into the field of applied behavior analysis might not exactly know what the day-to-day life of a BCBA entails.
Whether you’re wondering what a BCBA does because your child is receiving ABA (applied behavior analysis) services or you are a behavior technician or therapist who works with children with autism and you’re curious as to what the BCBA who oversees your case does or you are interested in becoming a BCBA, we will answer your questions.
Although every day isn’t going to look the same as a BCBA, there are some common activities that a BCBA will do in their job. We’ll explore what a day in the life of a BCBA looks like to help give you a better idea of what BCBAs do.
BCBAs Work in Different Areas
The first thing we should point out is that the title of Board-Certified Behavior Analyst does not necessarily mean that the person will be working with children with autism spectrum disorder or children with developmental disabilities of some sort. A BCBA can work in any capacity generally with the intent of helping people or organizations improve their behaviors or their overall functioning in some way. However, for the purposes of what we’ll be talking about here, we will be discussing the nature of a BCBA who is working with children with autism and other disabilities.
Some of the activities completed by a BCBA who works in the autism field might also apply to BCBAs who work in other areas, as well, but some activities are specific to working with children and families impacted by autism spectrum disorder.
Supervising ABA Services
One of the core activities that a BCBA does during a typical day when they are working with children with autism is to monitor their client’s services. Sometimes this is referred to as providing supervision of the case. The ABA services are typically provided directly by a behavior technician or behavior therapist (BT), sometimes a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT). The BCBA’s role involves attending some of the child’s direct ABA services to observe the child, monitor if the behavior technician is providing services effectively, and to evaluate whether the child is making progress toward their treatment goals.
Some things the BCBA might do while in a therapy session with the behavior technician and the child receiving services is to make observations about the child’s behavior, give the behavior technician feedback about how well they are implementing the treatment plan, or make recommendations on things that should be changed in the child’s services.
The BCBA might also interact with the child to learn more about the child’s behavior or to model certain intervention strategies to the behavior technician so the Behavior Therapist is better able to implement the strategies when the BCBA isn’t there to help them. Contact behavioral Innovations to see if ABA therapy is right for your child.
Providing Parent Training and Support
Another essential component of the job of a BCBA is to work with parents and caregivers. The BCBA will meet with parents or other caregivers who have frequent contact with the child. The BCBA will provide the caregivers with guidance on using applied behavior analysis to help the child achieve specific goals. The BCBA will collaborate with the parents and caregivers to identify any concerns they have and then provide recommendations and support in ways that allow the parent to use effective strategies outside of services to help their child with those concerns.
A BCBA might follow a general curriculum during their parent/caregiver meetings to provide for more structured lessons to make effective use of their time with the family. However, they will always individualize their services to make sure the parents/caregivers are being provided with guidance that is based on their child’s unique needs.
Developing Treatment Plans and Programs
A day in the life of a BCBA also includes prescribing treatment plans, sometimes referred to as programs, which are the formal documents that spell out the medically necessary intervention that the child will receive in order to accomplish specified goals.
The behavior technician (or Registered Behavior Technician) implements the treatment plans or programs with the client. The BCBA will then monitor the child’s services to make sure that the child is making progress toward the identified treatment goals and that the plans are effective.
Providing Staff Training
BCBAs often provide additional training to staff outside of the direct ABA sessions. This training might be related to general principles found within the field of applied behavior analysis especially as it relates to helping children learn new skills and reduce challenging behaviors.
Staff training might also include client-specific training which could involve discussing concerns or challenges that are happening with a specific client and ways to help overcome these difficulties.
Additionally, if a client has multiple behavior technicians, training might include ensuring that all the staff that works with that client are aware of the treatment plans, any recent modifications to intervention strategies, and other relevant aspects of the client’s treatment services.
Data Analysis to Support a Client’s Progress
A BCBA will likely look at and analyze some type of data on a daily or almost daily basis. Data analysis is one of the essential tasks that a BCBA will complete. Typically, the behavior technician collects the data based on the child’s response to treatment in ABA sessions. Then, the BCBA will analyze the data to assess whether progress is being made and to identify any potential concerns in the child’s treatment.
For instance, the BCBA might notice that the child has not increased the number of sounds he can make per day over the course of the past couple of weeks. Based on this interpretation of the data, the BCBA will determine what next steps should be taken in order to help the child move toward the goal of increasing the number of sounds he makes.
Collaborating with Others to Improve Services
Another part of a BCBA’s job involves collaborating with other people with the intent of improving the services provided. Collaborating with others is about working together with people who are important and relevant to the child that the BCBA is working with in their ABA services. For instance, a BCBA might collaborate with the child’s teacher or their doctor or a daycare provider.
The purpose of collaboration in ABA services, especially when completed by a BCBA, is to help the child reach specific goals, to help them develop new skills and reduce maladaptive behaviors that will ultimately help them to become more independent and live a more fulfilling life.
A BCBA might collaborate with a doctor in order to obtain medical information that is related to the child’s behaviors. For instance, a child might have a medical condition that impacts their ability to sleep well, or they might have a medical condition which is related to an increase in behavioral issues when the condition is not treated properly.
A BCBA might collaborate with the child’s teacher in order to identify concerns that the teacher is having about the child’s functioning in the school setting. Additionally, a teacher and a BCBA can identify effective strategies that can be used in multiple settings, such as in the classroom, in therapy, and at home, that will help decrease challenging behaviors displayed by the child.
7 Dimensions of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
A BCBA’s role is based on ABA -- applied behavior analysis. They oversee the ABA services that are being directly provided by the behavior technician for the child, but the work that a BCBA does is based on ABA principles, as well. Let’s look at what is known as the 7 dimensions of ABA, which are seven of the core features of what makes ABA stand out as a field, and how these apply to the daily life of a BCBA.
1. GENERALITY - BCBAs consider how their clients can generalize the skills they are working on. A BCBA might address this concept when supervising the client’s ABA session, when analyzing data, or when collaborating with others. BCBAs can also help staff to be able to generalize their skills, such as how to use positive reinforcement, in a variety of ways.
2. EFFECTIVE - BCBAs want to ensure that their clients are making real and meaningful progress toward their treatment goals. They address this concept on a regular basis by analyzing data and consulting with parents and caregivers to evaluate the effectiveness of services.
3. TECHNOLOGICAL - BCBAs make sure to clearly articulate the interventions being provided. They do this in the way they communicate how treatment plans should be implemented. This is demonstrated in written documents as well as in how the BCBA verbally communicates with parents and professionals.
4. APPLIED - Services are applied when they address meaningful issues and goals. BCBAs address this concept in their daily work by focusing on treatment goals that have been identified to be important by parents and caregivers and sometimes the child themselves. They also continue to check in with these individuals to make sure they are focusing on goals and concerns that are significant to them.
5. CONCEPTUALLY SYSTEMATIC - BCBAs make sure services are conceptually systematic by incorporating and recommending principles based upon behavior analysis and what has been found, by science, to create meaningful behavior change. Examples of such principles include positive reinforcement, differential reinforcement, motivating operations, pairing, along with many other concepts.
6. ANALYTICAL - BCBAs analyze data daily or at least almost daily to help make informed decisions about their clients’ services.
7. BEHAVIORAL - BCBAs focus on behaviors that are observable and measurable.
Example Daily Schedule of a BCBA
Not every day will follow the same schedule when you work as a BCBA. For instance, some days a BCBA will have more supervision sessions than others. Some days, a BCBA might stay at work later in the evening in order to provide oversight of a client’s services when a client has afternoon or evening ABA sessions. Also, some tasks are only completed on a weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis, such as parent meetings or staff training. Despite the differences that occur across days for a BCBA, we will provide you with an example of what a day in the life of a BCBA could look like.
Example Schedule of a Day in the Life of a BCBA
9:30 - Supervision of Client #1
10:30 - Supervision of Client #2
11:30 - Supervision of Client #3
12:30 - Lunch Break
1:30 - Supervision of Client #4
2:30 - Parent Training Client #1
3:30 - Paperwork (Treatment plan development, research to improve programs, emails, etc.)
4:30 - Complete Relevant Phone Calls (e.g.: collaboration with doctors or teachers, replying to parents, etc.)
5:30 - Staff Training or Additional Client-Specific Tasks (e.g.: Data Analysis)
6:00 - End of workday
A Day in the Life of a BCBA
As we discussed, there are a lot of components to the role of a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst. A day in the life of a BCBA isn’t always the same but there are some general tasks that a BCBA will complete. This will also depend on the area that the BCBA is specializing in, such as whether they work with children with autism or in an organizational behavior management role.
A day in the life of a BCBA can be busy and demanding but it can be extremely rewarding and can make a tremendous difference in the lives of the people receiving services overseen by the BCBA. Each day a BCBA goes to work, they have the sole purpose of helping others to live better, more fulfilling lives in ways that are suitable to the individual clients’ needs, abilities, and wishes.
Being a BCBA can be a challenging yet rewarding job. If you’d like to join Behavioral Innovations’ growing team, contact us at 855-782-7822 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.