Prerequisite training designed for ABA behavior therapists is essential for individuals practicing in the field because lack of proper training can be detrimental for clients as inexperienced therapists without the necessary skill set are unable to provide effective treatment to those with autism. Studies suggest that untrained individuals typically have negative attitudes towards applied behavior analysis and methodologies due to inaccurate information, misconceptions, and lack of sufficient training (Allen & Bowles, 2014; Grey, Honan, Mcclean, & Daly, 2005). It is unfortunate that there is a high rate of incompetent staff working directly with clients with an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis who are not provided with an adequate training program. Individuals who receive appropriate training report a significant increase of knowledge and confidence as well as an increased positive attitude toward ABA (Luiselli, Bass, & Whitcomb, 2010; Smyth, Reading, & Mcdowell, 2017.) Therefore, in order for ABA behavior therapists to perform competently, confidently implement programs, and accurately provide services they must complete a prerequisite training on ABA prior to working with clients with autism.
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Allen and Bowles (2014) conducted a survey among 187 primary teachers that included a variety of specific measures of professional background and knowledge of ABA. The results prior to training showed that the teachers held negative attitudes towards ABA (Allen et. al, 2014). The absence of ABA knowledge and training available to teachers has led such educators to disregard the behaviorally based intervention. ABA is a scientifically proven approach and should be used and implemented correctly and in order to accomplish this the teachers must be provided with an opportunity to improve their understanding and practice. Code 1.01, Reliance of Scientific Knowledge, states that behavior analysis relies on scientific evidence and behavior analysts depend on this knowledge when engaging professionally with clients as objective data allows a data-based conclusion (Bailey & Burke, 2016). Allen and Bowles’ study recommends that knowledge and background of the behavioral approach of ABA should be in teachers’ repertoire and if it is not then teachers should receive instruction and training on the approach.
There is a lack of skilled practitioners in typical school settings eliminating the opportunity for the implementation of ABA, despite the countless amount of scientifically proven data that suggesting that this approach is most effective with children with autism. Grey, Honan, Mcclean, and Daly’s (2005) evaluated the importance of a training program in ABA. Children with autism require a unique curriculum in order to reduce the deficits characteristics of autism and need behavioral support and data suggests that this often surpasses teacher skills and training as it has been indicated in a survey of teachers that half of them have not had the opportunity to develop skills in applied behavior analysis techniques and approaches (Grey et. al, 2005). There is an absence of training required to understand and practice the specific curriculum needed for children with autism. This is a violation of Compliance Code 2.02, Treatment/Intervention Efficacy, as clients have a right to effective treatment that is supported scientifically and is validated in long-term and short-term success (Bailey & Burch, 2016). It is necessary to know and understand what treatments are being implemented and how this might impact behavior depending on if it is scientifically supported or not.
Grey, Honan, Mcclean, and Daly (2005) continued their evaluation as teachers were directed through an intensive ABA training program and completed questionnaires based on their understanding of the knowledge. The results indicated that the teachers unanimously agreed that they all had learned a significant amount of information regarding ABA and considered themselves to be familiar with the language, meaning, and basis of ABA terminology and felt comfortable with completing and recording assessments (Grey et. al, 2015). The training proved to be effective and beneficial as the newly acquired skills guided their educational opportunities with children with autism. Problematic behaviors that were present in the classroom prior to teachers receiving adequate training had decreased significantly (33.3%) after teacher training. Teachers were able to implement behavioral techniques effectively and this supports Code 5.04, Designing Effective Supervision and Training, because the trainees were taught exclusively evidence-based procedures (Bailey & Burch, 2016). Training opportunities warrant improvement of many different areas involved including the overall classroom, staff, and students. The decrease of problematic behaviors exhibited by children with autism confirms that the generalization of the assumptions of science has been met because the skill was able to occur in an environment other than where it was discretely taught. Generalization is an important aspect in learning new skills as it is essential that it can be applied in various settings in order to confirms that the knowledge is fully understood.
Staff training is necessary for staff in order to produce performance improvements in a behavioral setting. Luiselli, Bass, and Whitcomb’s (2010) study evaluated a systematic applied behavior analysis training program for new employees working at an agency for adults with disabilities. The training consisted of three content areas: measurement, behavior support, and skill acquisition. Employees completed an assessment of knowledge prior to undergoing training, as well as an assessment after training. Figure 1 presents a graph of the pre-training and post-training assessment of knowledge test scores of the three content areas. The graph displays a significant increase of knowledge in all areas with a correct response increase of 16% in measurement, a 14% increase in behavior support, and a tremendous 28% increase in skill acquisition (Luiselli et. al, 2010, p. 410). The increase of knowledge suggests that the technological assumption of science has been met as the procedures were described clearly and concisely allowing the employees to implement their new skills. The results suggest that a comprehensive training program is necessary for organization specializing in ABA to have competent and knowledgeable staff that are successful in implementing behavioral approaches and plans effectively.
There are several negative perceptions of ABA in the public and professional settings. Smyth, Reading, and Mcdowell (2017) sought to measure how professionals’ knowledge and attitudes of ABA would be impacted following a short intervention. The participants included teachers and classroom assistants who currently work with children with severe learning difficulties and the method required participants to complete a self-report survey on ABA. In order to increase participants knowledge of ABA, they were presented with a short training module on ABA and following this training were asked to complete the self-report survey. The results concluded that the training increased the participants’ knowledge of ABA (Smyth et. al, 2017). Compliance Code 6.01, Affirming Principles, is in relation to this training as behavior analysis is upheld among all other professional training and this specific behavioral approach is advancing the values, ethics, and principles of behavior analysis (Bailey & Burch, 2016).The goal of the study was to determine if participants would be influenced by a brief training in ABA rather than a more common extensive training and results suggested that this approach is beneficial as there was a significant increase of positive attitudes and knowledge toward ABA following the training. Training proves to be beneficial for professionals in the field regardless of how extensive it may be. This study suggests that a small amount of adequate training is more advantageous than receiving no formal training at all.
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The role of a behavior analyst comes with many responsibilities. One of these important responsibilities may include training of staff to conduct behavioral skills training (BST). This includes teaching how to reduce maladaptive behaviors and implement specific procedures. Parsons, Rollyson, and Reid (2013) evaluate a pyramidal approach using BST a trainer to train multiple staff. This consisted of an assessment of 10 human service practitioners training staff using a simulation. Pyramidal training can be referred to as peer training as it typically involves a behavior analyst training a small group of staff (Parsons et. al, 2013). The participants were assessed before and after the completion of BST training. The results indicated an increase of participant use of BST and BST proficiently to train staff following the training. The performance of the staff members was above average with most staff performing at 100% following the BST training (Parsons et. al, 2013). The use of pyramidal training is efficient as it allows behavior analysts to train staff in a less time-consuming manner and data signifies that it is valuable for all parties involved. This training and assessment follow Compliance Code, 1.05 Professional and Scientific Relationships, because the participants were contracted their responsibilities and duties and then provided behavior analytic services in a defined, professional role (Bailey & Burch, 2016).
Prerequisite training designed for ABA behavior therapists is essential for individuals practicing in the field of ABA. Lack of proper training results in inaccurate and ineffective treatment for clients, preconceived negative attitudes toward behavior analysis, and incompetent staff implementing behavioral techniques with uncertainty. It is proven that training programs significantly increase the knowledge and understanding of applied behavior analysis and its methodologies while improving staff confidence working with children with autism. Ultimately, schools, agencies, and other professional settings should require a mandatory prerequisite training program for all staff in order to improve the quality of life and service all around.
- Allen, K. A., & Bowles, T. V. (2014). Examining The Effects Of Brief Training On The Attitudes And Future Use Of Behavioral Methods By Teachers. Behavioral Interventions, 29(1), 62-76. doi:10.1002/bin.1376
- Bailey, J. S., & Burch, M. R. (2016). Ethics for behavior analysts (3rd ed.). London: Routledge.
- Grey, I. M., Honan, R., Mcclean, B., & Daly, M. (2005). Evaluating the effectiveness of teacher training in Applied Behaviour Analysis. Journal of Intellectual Disabilities, 9(3), 209-227. doi:10.1177/1744629505056695
- Luiselli, J. K., Bass, J. D., & Whitcomb, S. A. (2010). Teaching Applied Behavior Analysis Knowledge Competencies to Direct-Care Service Providers: Outcome Assessment and Social Validation of a Training Program. Behavior Modification, 34(5), 403-414. doi:10.1177/0145445510383526
- Parsons, M. B., Rollyson, J. H., & Reid, D. H. (2013). Teaching Practitioners to Conduct Behavioral Skills Training: A Pyramidal Approach for Training Multiple Human Service Staff. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 6(2), 4-16. doi:10.1007/bf03391798
- Smyth, S., Reading, B. E., & Mcdowell, C. (2017). The impact of staff training on special educational needs professionals’ attitudes toward and understanding of applied behavior analysis. Journal of Intellectual Disabilities, 174462951773916. doi:10.1177/1744629517739160
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