ASD Support Basics: Applied Behavior Analysis Part Two

Toby Mountjoy clarifies ABA therapy approaches and current accreditations, offering insights.

ISTOCK BOUGHT ABA EXPERT

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TOBY MOUNTJOY

Biography:

Toby Mountjoy is a board-certified behavior analyst with a Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), possessing over 25 years of experience working with individuals with ASD. He trained under experts such as Dr. Ronald Leaf, Dr. Mitchell Taubman, and Dr. John McEachin. Mr. Mountjoy oversees Autism Partnership operations in multiple locations, including China, Korea, Philippines, Singapore, and Kuwait, leading a team of over 500 staff comprised of psychologists, consultants, and therapists.

What assessment tools or methods do you use to evaluate a child's goals for therapy?

Our consultants are trained to continuously assess a student to identify therapy goals. This training is intensive, long-term, and on-going. 

Through these assessments, we pinpoint the functions of disruptive behaviors, determine the skills necessary for becoming a more effective learner, identify functional language targets, assess readiness for group participation, and select relevant play skills to teach, among other objectives. We favor this continuous assessment approach over structured assessments that may only take place once or twice a year and may not provide individualized recommendations.

However, it’s important to note that training individuals to conduct these assessments demands a significant commitment to training. We’re dedicated to this process to ensure that each child receives tailored support for their unique needs and development.

What are the key differences among ABA therapy providers in their approaches to treating children with ASD?

There are substantial differences in approach among ABA providers, and while it's impossible to cover them all, I'll highlight a few key distinctions.

One substantial difference involves the training and skill of the interventionists. Many interventionists are minimally trained, relying on rigid teaching protocols provided by their supervisors. While these protocols may provide more consistency of treatment, they lack the flexibility and clinical judgement for effective teaching. 

Similarly, many supervisors use standardized curriculum guides, which can limit individualization in programming due to a lack of training in identifying a child's specific needs. 

Other differences involve the focus of treatment, as many providers focus on one or two areas at the expense of other aspects of the child’s life. For example, a sole emphasis on language development may overlook addressing a child's stereotypic behaviors.

ISTOCK BOUGHT ABA EXPERT

What sort of accreditation or credentials should I look for when selecting an ABA therapist?

The credentialing landscape has evolved substantially over the years. Twenty-five years ago, there were virtually no ABA-specific credentials. With the rising demand for qualified interventionists, a knowledge-based credential grew out of university training programs in the US. Over time, the organization’s credential increased experience requirements, but also created a more entry-level certification that requires only a trivial amount of work with a client. 

Today, the marketplace has the opposite problem that it had all those years ago. Credentials are readily accessible, but there are many professionals who are substandard. Additionally, the major credentialing organization in the US no longer certifies people outside of the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia. 

To fill the void and set a higher standard of care, the Progressive Behavior Analyst Autism Council has developed and is developing Certified Progressive Behavior Analyst credentials that are knowledge- and skill-based. If you see a Certified Progressive Behavior Analyst – Autism Profession, Autism Supervisor, or Autism Interventionist, you can be confident that the professional is a skilled provider. 

Is there any research or expert guidance on the ideal frequency of ABA therapy sessions for children with autism?

Unfortunately, ABA is not an easy treatment. 

Extensive research has repeatedly demonstrated that, for intervention to be effective, up to 40 hours per week is needed. Depending upon the child’s impairment, fewer than 40 hours can be effective. 

However, dedicating just an hour or two per week, or even an hour or two per day, will not be effective. We understand that facing such a commitment can be overwhelming for parents. Nevertheless, it is our responsibility as professionals to adhere to research-backed best-practice recommendations. Additionally, an eclectic approach that incorporates other treatments will often inhibit progress. 

 

Visit  Resources here to download our curated list of ABA therapy services.