What is ABA?

ABA is Applied Behavior Analysis, the study of human and animal behavior. ABA focuses on improving socially significant behaviors. ABA has a large research base and its methods have been proven to improve positive behaviors for its clients. ABA has been recognized as the most effective treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder and other developmental disorders.


“Applied” means practice, rather than research or philosophy. “Behavior analysis” may be read as “learning theory,” that is, understanding what leads to (or doesn’t lead to) new skills. (This is a simplification: ABA is just as much about maintaining and using skills as about learning.) It may seem odd to use the word “behavior” when talking about learning to talk, play, and live as a complex social animal, but to a behaviorist all these can be taught, as long as there are intact brain functions to learn and practice the skills.


ABA is Applied Behavior Analysis, the study of human and animal behavior. ABA focuses on improving socially significant behaviors. ABA has a large research base and its methods have been proven to improve positive behaviors for its clients. ABA has been recognized as the most effective treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder and other developmental disorders.


Most typically developing children learn without our intervention–the world around them provides the right conditions to learn language, play, and social skills. Children learn a lot from their natural environment. Children with autism learn much, much less easily from the natural environment. While they have the potential to learn, depending on the child and their specific individual needs, it might take a more structured environment or a blend of structure and natural environment, for learning to occur, one where conditions are optimized for acquiring the same skills that typical children learn “naturally.” ABA is all about how to set up the environment to enable our kids to learn.

How do I know what to expect from an ABA company?

ABA is an empirically validated treatment for autism and many other disorders. Empirically validated means that lots of research was conducted on the procedures we use before they are implemented with our clients.


The specialists on GBC aba’s team are always seeking ways to improve and expand their skills by staying current with the latest research by take continuing education courses to keep up with best practices which can be found at https://bacb.com/fourth-edition-task-list/. You can make sure these guidelines are being followed, if you would like, and if you aren’t sure that they are, just ask!


GBC aba’s team genuinely has your best interests in mind, and continually follows the research on best practices. All ABA companies should be abiding by these standards. If you are currently with another company and not happy, we advise you to ask your supervising BCBA about best practices and see if they are willing to work with you. As ABA practitioners, we have a large population to serve and it’s GBC aba’s mission to help make sure everyone who needs them has great services. There is no need to be on a wait list with an ABA provider. There are many in the Chicagoland area. We hope you will consider contacting GBC aba to determine if we are a good fit and let us help meet your family’s needs.

What is a BCBA? How do they get that credential?

Behavior Analysts are certified through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). The BACB has a set of experience standards that must be met for a Behavior Analyst to become certified. To review the current experience standards for BCBAs, please visit www.bacb.com. Once certified, a Behavior Analyst is called a Board Certified Behavior Analyst or BCBA. In order to maintain the credential, the BCBA must do continuing education every certification cycle.

I only see my supervisor for 1-2 hours at a time. How are they providing enough supervision? What does my BCBA spend her time doing?

The standard of care outlined by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) states that for every 10 hours of direct therapy provided to a client by a behavior technician, as few as 30 minutes or many as 2 hours of supervision should be provided for that case. This range of 5-20% supervision hours is determined by the BCBA based on the need of the client.  The more behaviors or more comprehensive the treatment, more supervision may be required in order to maintain quality programming.  Clients that are doing well and require fewer supports from a BCBA may still make significant progress with only 5% BCBA supervision.  This largely depends on the quality of the programs, the individual client, the parent involvement, and the training of the behavior technicians.


Supervision activities occur both directly and indirectly, meaning that not all supervision takes place in your home or therapy setting with the client. For this reason, the number of hours you will see your BCBA face to face may vary. Sometimes the BCBA provides supervision at your home and overlaps – or is at your house at the same time – with the BT during your child’s direct therapy in order to ensure programs are being implemented as intended. This is only part of the BCBA’s job.


The BCBA also does offsite – indirect – supervision, which might include analyzing data, reviewing assessment results, creating new targets/goals for your child to work on, writing reports and behavior support plans, collaborating with other therapies (speech, OT, etc.) or school, offsite trainings for behavior technicians, updating the schedule, creating materials. In order for your child’s sessions to run as smooth as possible, the BCBA does a lot of behind the scenes work. Insurance clients:  Supervision hours may be limited due to restrictions from your insurance provider. If you have questions regarding your insurance benefits, please contact your BCBA or the Director of Clinical Services, or our Billing Specialists. They would be happy to explain your benefits to you.

Why are so many hours of ABA recommended in a week?

When babies, infants, toddlers and children are developing, they are constantly learning from the environment around them at every moment of their day. In order to help teach children who may not be naturally learning from their environment, we as ABA providers, explicitly teach the skills that are not being learned naturally (expressive and receptive language, social skills, daily living skills, etc.). As with any skill, the more practice, the faster you learn, the better you learn, and the more fluent you become at a skill. Typically, the best and fastest progress has a direct correlation with the amount of ABA hours a child is engaged in direct therapy.

Do I have to participate/observe the whole time the BCBA or behavior technician is working with my child?

The BCBA should be basing the recommendation for therapy hours on your child’s specific needs. The BCBA should come to this decision from the information collected during direct observations, interviews, and a skills-based assessment. The BCBA might recommend that you, the parent/guardian, observe or participate in a portion of hours during therapy based on your child’s need. It is also possible that the information collected regarding your child’s needs indicate that your family situation requires only parent consult rather than direct participation in your child’s therapy. Your BCBA Supervisor will make these details clear following their assessment. Insurance clients: Some insurance companies require parent participation and parent goals. Your BCBA will notify you if your plan requires additional participation hours.

What kind of progress can I expect if we start ABA?

The amount of progress your child will make depends on two things: his/her innate ability to learn and the quality of his/her instructional program. How much a child can learn given the best possible program is something no one can really predict. More recent experience suggests that the child’s progress in the first few months – a measure of his/her ability to learn–is related to long-term success, rather than his/her initial degree of disability. Above all, understand that this is a very poorly understood subject. There really are no reliable markers in a young child that predict what he/she will be like as an adult.


Program quality is something you can influence. The number of hours per week is one obvious measure. Since your child has a lengthy curriculum to get through, it is to his/her benefit to do it as quickly as possible. Not only do more hours mean more learning, but if your child is not yet able to initiate appropriate activities independently, every hour spent learning is one fewer hour spent practicing undesirable or atypical activities.


Instructional quality is just as important. Children with autism are not often the best customers for good intentions; simply sitting down and trying to teach on instinct may lead to a wide array of unwanted behaviors, but little useful learning. You can and should expect your child to learn to his maximum potential, even though there is no way to be sure exactly what that potential is. Expect also that progress is like the stock market – you really have to play it for the long term. Three steps forward and two back is more the rule than the exception. Daily or weekly plateaus, spurts, and regression can be emotionally exhausting, but a high quality program should lead to measurable progress from month to month.

Am I allowed to leave my child alone in the home with my child, so I can run an errand?

GBC requires a parent, guardian, or caregiver to be present at all times during session. Caregivers must be 18 years of age and must be able to provide proof of age, if requested. Parents can designate a caregiver of their choice to be present during therapy hours. However the caregiver may be required to participate in therapy, if needed, just as a parent/guardian would if that is a part of your child’s program.


GBC also encourages families to plan outings during therapy hours. BCBAs love it when our clients have the opportunity to generalize skills in the community. So instead of leaving your child behind to run that errand, consider asking your BCBA if your Behavior Technician (BT) and child can come with you! This should be an ongoing conversation with your BCBA and BT if appropriate and an ultimate goal for your child. Please talk with your BCBA to determine if your child and BTs are ready to go in the community together or if it should be a long-term goal as part of generalization for your child.  NOTE: GBC employees are not allowed to ride with you in your car. They will follow behind in their own vehicles. GBC employees are also not allowed to drive your child in their car. If you wish to discuss this please contact your BCBA or the Director of Clinical Services.

I’m told I’m getting a new staff member. How are new GBC staff members trained?

New behavior technicians go through 4-6 week training before beginning with clients. A portion of this training includes a 40-hour course covering ABA techniques and principles with an emphasis on providing ethical services. After new staff complete this training, they meet with GBC’s staff trainers and role-play running programs that they may see in the home.


Our new staff observes current staff on teams they will join before they are left alone with a client. Typically, they will observe 3 to 4 sessions and are accompanied by a BCBA or Program Supervisor during their first “solo” session. This ensures new staff are aware of the needs of your child through observation of others who have provided services, as well as making sure they understand and are able to meet your child’s individual needs as they begin providing services.   The supervisor will provide continual support via onsite observation, offsite training, and open communication to each of the staff members who work with your child.


Each behavior technician is required to become a credentialed Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) during their first 6 months of employment with GBC, in addition to the above means of observation and training. The RBT credential is a way for the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) to promote and monitor high quality services that are being provided by those delivering ABA.


The RBT credential includes three-steps. First, the RBT candidate must complete a 40-hour course regarding ABA techniques and principles as well as providing ethical services. Next, the BCBA must document that the staff member can demonstrate various skills and techniques independently while working with their clients. An 80-question written exam is the final step in the process of becoming an RBT. Once they pass this exam, they are then credentialed as a Registered Behavior Technician! For more information on the RBT credential, visit https://bacb.com/rbt.

How to handle staff turnover on your ABA team?

To be honest, staff turnover is a problem across our industry. The reality of the behavior technician position is that the job is very difficult and not for everyone. The Behavior Technician is an entry level position for which an individual is trained for 4-6 weeks. Every effort is made to help a new BT understand the rigors and experiences they will have as they are working with children with ASD, but reading scenarios and role playing with fellow staff is very different than interacting with a child on the spectrum. While it is extremely rewarding to spend time or play with your child and see the progress each client can make, the BT has the responsibility to manage behaviors, make it fun, and seemingly effortless. The combination may seem like the greatest job on earth to some, while more than bargained for by others. It is hard to know which will be the case for each newly hired Behavior Technician until they are in the field. Every effort is made by GBC to select and hire those most likely to LOVE and want to pursue ABA as a career. The simple truth is we – as is the case with many other ABA agencies – do not always make the best choices and there is no way to predict if a behavior technician will be a good fit for your family or for GBC.

I really like working with you, can you babysit for us as well?

No. We are flattered that you really like working with our staff, however, we want to provide the best, and most ethical, ABA service to meet the needs of your child there are rules against creating a dual relationship with families. A dual relationship is a boundary violation that is not allowed according to the BACB: “A behavior analyst refrains from entering into or promising a personal, scientific, professional, financial, or other relationship with any such person if it appears likely that such a relationship reasonably might impair the behavior analyst’s objectivity or otherwise interfere with the behavior analyst’s ability to effectively perform his or her functions as a behavior analyst, or might harm or exploit the other party.” If you’d like, GBC can provide you with a list of some respite care providers that may be able to meet your needs.