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Learning Center Experience
By Kylan Turner, Faculty, Psychology Degree Program
The history of applied behavior analysis (ABA)
has included the advancements of trailblazing scientists who examined the
principles of behavior change and learning theory and translated their research
to make a difference in the lives of real people with real problems. And, it
worked. ABA is now “on the map” as a respected and highly evidence-based
methodology. The practice of ABA is perhaps best known currently for using
rigorous scientific methods to help individuals with special needs learn
critical new skills and address challenging behaviors; this can be one of the
most rewarding aspects of one’s work as a behavior analyst.
However, ABA is a science
that requires a great deal of discipline to master and to implement properly.
Just like the journey to attain any specialized professional milestone, the
path to achieving the credential of a Board Certified Behavior Analyst® (BCBA®)
can be challenging at times. Therefore, it’s
important to chart a road map to pursue one’s goals. Fortunately, as budding
experts in the field of ABA, it will become clear how to apply critical ABA concepts
and principles to the task of developing one’s career.
As a recently hired full-time faculty member in the
Psychology Department at Kaplan University and as a practitioner using ABA for
over 14 years, I have made it my goal to live by the principles I teach. I
specialize in working with children with autism or other related developmental
disabilities to teach them critical skills to be more independent and interact
with others in meaningful ways. I believe I have been able to be successful in
my work because I use ABA to chart my own career and my work within it.
In my early years training to become a BCBA I would leave my
therapy sessions with my mind racing with possible ways to help each client
master new tasks and decrease challenging behaviors. As I became more involved
with my field of study and gained more direct training and eventual mastery of
ABA concepts and principles, I began to help each individual with whom I worked
in more significant and meaningful ways. Instead of simply being able to curb a
tantrum from escalating, I was teaching an individual to use American Sign
Language to ask for help, and therefore eliminate the need for the tantrum in
the first place. Instead of simply helping a parent teach their child to put on
their shoes independently, I was able to implement highly efficient protocols
to ensure that students in a specialized school program were being toilet
trained earlier, and therefore able to attend public grade school without
As I gained more skills as a practitioner, I also
began to steadily supervise new clinicians, conduct functional behavior
assessments independently, and design original behavioral protocols. In short,
as I learned and mastered the principles of ABA, I was able to use ABA in new
and meaningful ways. The correlation between what I learned and what I was able
to effectively teach was striking. I began to see ABA as a “magic” method to
help not only the individuals with whom I worked but their families as well
and, eventually, in my own pursuit of education and the development of my career in psychology.
As an individual starting on the path to becoming a BCBA,
the road ahead might seem daunting. Aside from the traditional coursework
requirements, prospective BCBAs need to also accrue supervised experience hours
and pass a standardized exam (Behavior Analyst Certification Board, 2015). The
efforts required to complete all of the required steps may be exhausting. This
may especially be true as you may not have a ready path to gain supervision
experience, or may be juggling difficult family and work schedules as you study
for the BCBA exam.
Here are some tips to help you reach your goal of becoming a BCBA:
Kylan Turner is a faculty member at Kaplan University. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the view of Kaplan University.
For additional information about the BACB credential and its eligibility requirements, refer to the BACB’s website (www.bacb.com/).
Climbing the Steps to a Fulfilling Career in Behavioral Health Fields
Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis, by Bobby Buckner, MS, BCBA
Did you find this article interesting? If so, share it!
And if you are considering pursuing higher education we invite you to find out more about Kaplan University’s programs and explore our undergraduate and graduate degree offerings.
Behavior Analyst Certification Board. (2015). Eligibility Standards. Retrieved from: http://www.bacb.com/index.php?page=53
Cooper J.O, Heron T.E, Heward W.L. Applied behavior analysis (2nd ed.) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson; 2007.
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