One of the tenets of ABA is to provide evidence-based practice. The best way to help us do this is to keep up with the literature! Each month, Sam Blanco, PhD, LBA, BCBA will select one journal article and provide discussion questions for professionals working within the ABA community. The following week another ABA professional will respond to Sam’s questions and provide further insight and a different perspective on the piece.
This week, Solandy Forte, PhD, LCSW, LBA, BCBA-D provided a response to some of Sam’s questions about the article below:
I am thrilled to contribute to the conversation about RBT as it deserves the attention particularly as we continue to grow as a field. We are a young field that is experiencing growing pains but they are good ones. I appreciate the contributions that many practitioners in our field have shared relating to credentialing of RBTs. At the end of all this, I am confident we will have established training and experience standards to will lead to positive outcomes for our consumers. We have a long road ahead.
Leaf, J. B., Leaf, R., McEachin, J., Taubman, M., Smith, T., Harris, S. L., … & Volkmar, F. R. (2017). Concerns about the Registered Behavior Technician™ in relation to effective autism intervention. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 10(2), 154-163.
- The authors discuss the evolution of the BACB and concerns with certifying behavior analysts prior to the advent of RBTs. What did you think of the concerns identified here? Are these still concerns we have about BCBAs? How are they similar or different than concerns about RBTs?
The field of behavior analysis is practically in its adolescence. There are many other helping professions such as psychology, psychiatry, and social work that have experienced growth for over a century and have had to navigate through barriers impacting the practitioner’s ability to provide quality behavioral healthcare with the increasing demand of service. It is not unusual for a growing field to consider identifying ways to meet the healthcare needs of the population particularly when the number of qualified practitioners is not sufficient to meet the demands. For instance, in the nursing field, registered nurses are often supported by nursing assistants and nurse aides. The nursing field developed training and experience standards for each of these credentials and these standards have likely been modified as the profession has studied the impact on the overall delivery of services and its impact on the patient.
Sure, the concerns raised are valid and should be evaluated carefully by researchers so that they can inform special matter expert groups established by the BACB®. However, the field of behavior analysis cannot ignore the obvious increase in demand for applied behavioral analysis services. It will take decades for the field to assess what are the most appropriate training and experience requirements to promote optimal consumer outcomes. This is not only the case for RBTs® but also for BCBAs®. Again, this is a growing field and we should expect to see modifications in the credentialing requirements.
- How does the current training of RBTs compare to the training of behavior technicians in early behavior analytic studies?
Any training of behavior technicians in early studies were developed by science practitioners who based their training procedures (e.g., topics, hours, teaching methodology, etc.) on either previous studies that evaluated training methods or training procedures that best fit their setting, staff, and client needs. These research studies were not evaluating the training requirement of the RBT®. Regardless, these studies contributed to the field of behavior analysis particularly when practitioners were developing in-house training requirements and adjusting along the way as they observed the behavior technician’s ability to implement behavioral technology with fidelity and retain what they had learned in the initial training overtime. Currently, research studies are evaluating training packages that are aligned with the RBT® requirements and these will contribute to any revisions to credential requirements.
- Look at the RBT task list. The authors argue that the current amount of training does not meet standards set forth by research on staff training. How can BCBAs and organizations hiring RBTs support their mastery of the skills on this list?
Every organization is responsible for setting their own standards with regard to training of staff. Training requirements will vary depending on the setting and in some cases requirements will expand beyond RBT® training. For instance, there are organizations that require staff to receive physical management training, CPR, and first aid, to name a few. It is common for training to occur on a regular or annual basis for an organization to remain in compliance with state regulations or enhance the delivery of services. With regard to the RBT® credential, organizations are responsible and should carefully evaluate mastery of skills. Further, organizations should include in their training protocols procedures for evaluating generalization and maintenance of acquired skills. It is not only to important to meet mastery for each item on the RBT® task list but it is critical for staff to implement the skills they have acquired in a variety of setting over time. RBTs work a variety of settings including home, school, and community; therefore, mastery of skills cannot just be mastered in the classroom setting but also must be generalized to the settings in which will be applied.
- Many of the recommendations by the authors include changes the BACB should enact as well as research that should be conducted. How are you able to take a role in these types of recommendations?
There is no doubt that research should be conducted to further evaluate the training and experience requirements for RBTs® but again this is going to take time. Research studies take years to plan, execute, and disseminate. This is not an easy feat but one that should be charged by the practitioners in the field and the demand for the delivery of high-quality behavioral services. Our goal is to contribute to the solution by collecting and sharing data that experts can use to revise RBT® requirements. We cannot ignore the obvious need for research in this area that will ultimately contribute to the positive growth of our field.
Solandy Forte, PhD, LCSW, LBA, BCBA-D, is the Director of Consultation Services and Community Outreach at Milestones Behavioral Services. She is a doctoral level Board Certified Behavior Analyst licensed in Connecticut and Massachusetts and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Dr. Forte provides consultation services to the school programs at Milestones serving individuals with a diverse set of complex learning needs. In addition to providing direct consultation to children within the private school setting, she also has provided consultation to multi-disciplinary teams within the public school setting where she assisted with program development initiatives to promote building capacity for educating children with autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders within the least restrictive educational setting. Dr. Forte has experience working with children and young adults with special needs in their homes, schools, and community settings. She is an adjunct professor for the Institute of Autism and Behavioral Studies at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, Connecticut and the Institute of Behavioral Studies at Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts.