Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) therapists apply the principles of behaviour analysis to treat patients who have difficulties with socially significant behaviours. These may include social skills, reading, communication, personal self-care and work skills. ABA therapists often work with children, but treat adults with developmental or learning disorders as well. Since 2000, the Centre for Autism and Related Disorders has acknowledged ABA therapy as an effective treatment for children with autism because ABA therapists are often able to help autistic children increase positive behaviours and reduce interfering behaviours through the use of reinforcement procedures.
ABA therapists work one-on-one with patients. Therapy often takes place in the patient's home and in some cases, the child's school. ABA therapists utilise highly structured treatment programs that are geared toward the specific patient's needs. Therapists do not create these plans themselves, but instead use programs that are devised by behavioural consultants. ABA therapists use the principles of behaviour analysis to help patients improve social, play, language and academic skills, while helping reduce interfering behaviours, which may include aggressive behaviour like biting or pinching. They reinforce positive behaviours and intervene when patients exhibit undesirable behaviours. ABA therapists continually evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment program, and make any necessary changes to help patients learn new skills and behaviours more effectively.
According to Education-Portal.com, some ABA therapists earn a bachelor's degree in psychology, childhood education or a related field, while others pursue a master's or doctoral degree in psychology. ABA therapists may become certified by the Behaviour Analyst Certification Board, which offers two credentials. Those who receive the Board Certified Behaviour Analyst certification must have a master's degree, while those who pursue the Board Certified Assistant Behaviour Analyst credential must have a bachelor's degree. Students who plan to become ABA therapists should not only study general psychology courses, but classes in applied behavioural analysis principles as well. Clinical work with patients is usually required of students in behavioural analysis programmes.
According to Education-Portal.com, some ABA therapists operate private practices, while others work for schools, social service agencies or consulting firms. They are often required to travel to patients' homes, schools or workplaces. Therapists can spend up to three hours with one patient, according to the Autism Centre for Education, and because their patients may suffer from severe social disorders like autism spectrum disorder, the work can be both physically and emotionally draining. ABA therapists usually work standard 40-hour weeks, but they often work irregular hours, such as evenings or weekends, to accommodate patients.
According to a leading website, the median hourly wages for ABA therapists with less than a year of experience ranged from £6.10 to £11.00 as of June 2010. Those with one to four years of experience earned between £8.80 and £11.60, while those with five to nine years of experience earned between £10.10 and £16.60. ABA therapists with 10 to 19 years of experience earned as much as £35.07 per hour. In addition, the average annual salary for ABA therapists in the United States was £29,900 as of June 2010, according to Indeed.com.
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of one in 110 children had autism spectrum disorder in 2006 and the numbers are expected to steadily rise. Because ABA therapy has been noted as an effective treatment for individuals with autism, ABA therapists should see increased employment opportunities. Those with doctoral degrees should enjoy the best prospects.