Becoming an Applied Behavioral Analysist for Autism Spectrum Disorder Therapy

Abstract

When finishing an educational program, it is essential to stop and think where one is. That is, what has been already achieved and what is to be next. The current paper, explains my concerns in psychology, describes the career goals, analyzes what is needed to achieve them. This assignment concludes that Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is the most efficient method for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) therapy and provides the career plan to become an ABA specialist. It shows that a career in this discipline demands numerous steps such as higher education and certification, especially if one plans to work in clinical settings.

Analyzing the current abilities, I realize that I have mastered the basics of the specialization, but lack experience working in the research community. Furthermore, investigation of the current state of ABA in the scientific community reveals unbalanced research and practical activity, with the latter being more salient. To contribute to filling that gap, I plan to start research activity entering a PhD program and connect to the ABA society. Overall, this assignment is vital for being aware of stage one is at and provokes the process of effective planning of the future, thereby being essential for successful self-realization.

Introduction

Psychology has always been generating debates if it is a science, thereby provoking hesitations whether it is reasonable to take the path of a clinical psychologist. It is apparent that many branches of psychology were developing theories consistent with the contemporary scientific criteria. The behavioral theory seems to be the most successful one because it includes concrete principles and provides a coherent methodology for research (Grigorenko, Torres, Lebedeva, & Bondar, 2018).

Most importantly, behavioral methods are sustainably shown to be highly effective in clinical settings, for instance, in ASD therapy. I used to be interested in atypical psychological development and in what was usually treated as an abnormal mind. For these reasons, I decided to concentrate on ABA and to master this specific discipline.

Studying ABA at the current program was a significant advancement for the professional awareness. With this specialization, one makes sure that ABA is a discipline that is especially needed in clinical psychology because it gives numerous efficient techniques for practical work. While many other theories have to undergo a long way of developing their principles into practical application, this method is essentially ready for usage. However, ABA is also being avoided in some countries and communities, which means that its benefits might still not be fully revealed. Therefore, my interest was also to broaden the horizons of ABA application, discovering its hidden opportunities.

To summarize, ABA seems to present a promising tool for providing the most effective ASD treatment, thereby covering motivation to help people with autism. Another beneficial side of this approach is that it follows the modern scientific criteria and supports the development of objective and evidence-based knowledge. I am planning to enter the scientific and practical areas of ABA application to ASD and to share my experience with both the academic scientific community and with practicing therapists.

Vision and Goals

Clinical psychology is an appealing field for scientific research, as it has equal opportunities for both theory and practice. New therapy programs can be developed within such work and can be applied almost immediately, providing more motivation and reward for a researcher. Moreover, clinical studies are especially interesting for psychology because they are the source of valid case studies in science. Thus, research in clinical settings presents a particularly fruitful possibility to benefit scientific development.

ASD is of particular interest to psychologists, psychiatrists, and neurologists. Although ABA has shown to be extremely effective, especially in comparison to other approaches, there is still much controversy, and some scholars insist on being critical and skeptic (Shawler, Blair, Harper, & Dorsey, 2018). Therefore, it would be useful to investigate what ABA is valid for in ASD therapy and why there were many inconsistencies in the research on it.

The particular interest is to help people with ASD to live a life they wish. My main goal is to devote most of the efforts to ASD research, thereby developing ABA as a “cure.” The American behavioral society is quite well established and accepted within the country, while in other countries, ABA is less spread (Denne et al., 2017). It would be challenging to start practicing at a foreign locale and observe how this method is already being applied there and why it as so persistently rejected. Therefore, an option would be to look for a PhD program, but since ABA is supposed to be less accepted, it is also reasonable to look for programs related to the psychological treatment of ASD. When working at such a program, it would be perfect to open a center for autism research with inclination to behaviorism.

The educational and career path depends on the country where the specialist is going to work, and one needs to go on an academic career in order to maintain research activity. Therefore, I would like to join a research group at a scientific center or university laboratory. Moreover, it will also be beneficial to gain the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) certificate because it at least shows the level of professionalism and proves one’s sufficient competencies. Thus, while continuing studying and working in science, I am planning to acquire essential qualification for the practice and recognition in the ABA community.

Professional Competencies

Being an ABA specialist presents a career where a comprehensive education is necessary to enter the field. One should have great empathy because it is required to work with children with ASD. They got to be driven by a desire to get the most profound idea of autism to improve the assistance they can give to their clients. A professional ABA therapist features a positive viewpoint on life and has high productivity. They moreover have excellent communication abilities, which are essential for clarifying treatment procedures to at-home caregivers.

On the other hand, while ABA is mainly concentrated on practical application, it is also important to establish scientific activity like empirical research conduction, publication activity, and conference proceedings (Shawler et al., 2018). Thus, it is crucial to know the theory and to possess specific skills for ABA application.

Furthermore, ABA practice has rigorous and detailed ethical standards which are of great concern in professional career building. For instance, the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) requires following at least seven ethical standard guidelines, and BACB obliges completing ethical course work for the certification (Romanczyk, 2017). As can be seen, following ethical decision making is vital for a proficient ABA service.

Professional Requirements

Therapeutic work demands much effort in getting the necessary qualification, which would allow working with clinical populations. One needs a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, licensure, and professional certification as a minimum. An expected step is usually BCBA Certification, which is typically required in any ABA positions. The Capella master program provides an ABA education efficient for the BCBA certification, but for licensure and fully functional work, one typically need a doctoral degree. Thus, there are numerous steps in the ABA career, especially for the clinical specialization.

Moreover, an ABA therapist is also supposed to acquire and use evidence-based practice standards. These guidelines promote the maintaining of ABA within the scientific community and remaining recognized as a sound and well-grounded practice (Grigorenko et al., 2018). Besides, the standard of care allows the treatment to be reliably applied in numerous settings to promote generalization of the outcomes (Romanczyk, 2017). Thus, the requirements concern healthcare providing as well as the validity and reliability of ABA practice, and a specialist needs to able to strictly trace the instructions and guidelines.

Self-Assessment

Due to studying at the current program, I developed critical and reflective thinking, along with boosting my skills in finding and acquiring new information. The Capella program strengthened self-discipline, which is probably explained by the specificity of the program format. Indeed, some studies show that online-studying induces time management skills development, and it is not a simpler version of the traditional on-campus format (Payne & Johnson, 2005). Thus, probably I have sufficient personal characteristics for clinical work with ABA.

The program significantly increases knowledge in ABA therapy because many vital concepts, especially about ABA and ASD, are acquired during studying. Besides, one can be confident with their knowledge of essential ethical principles and basic rules of evidence-based practice, being entirely ready to demonstrate their application in real settings. It can be concluded that a graduate of the program has mastered the theoretical basics of the specialization.

However, I realized that my experience in therapy with children is quite limited, along with no experience in adult ASD therapy. Furthermore, I lack experience working in the research community and do not have any publications in journals, not to mention a lack of participation in conferences, even in a poster-session. Therefore, I need to work on gaining experience in therapeutic work and academic research.

Action Plan

After graduation, I will attend the BCBA certification courses and look for a PhD program, preferably in a country where ABA is not well-developed. I am planning to find and apply for a program within one year. Meanwhile, I will look for the information on ABA application in several countries and will have a draft of the research plan for my PhD, which will include a gap, research questions, and methods plan. There will likely be several variants, and when the final choice is confirmed, I will leave for the program country.

When I come for the PhD, I will try to find and contact ABA institutions or places related to them. After that, I will be kept updated on opportunities for practical work with ASD. I would like this work to be related to my PhD research so that I could fully concentrate on this activity.

As soon as the PhD work begins, I will start working on a publication on ABA research and will submit the final draft to a peer-review journal within one year. There is still a shortage of academic articles using the ABA approach because most of ABA specialists are concentrated on practice ignoring the research field (Shawler et al., 2018). Probably, my paper will not report on an experiment since it is unlikely that I will already get any results. Thus, one of my goals is to get an idea of the publication process and keep in touch with the ABA community worldwide.

Conclusion

To conclude, the personal career aim is to practice ABA in ASD therapy, as well as to find and develop the most efficient variant of the treatment. Profound specialized understanding of ASD is one of the essential competencies for this career. The current program is a huge step as it provides the basement for future improvements, and I am planning to continue studying abroad for PhD. It is essential for any specialist to develop and improve their skills and knowledge, especially during such swift time. For these reasons, one should always be up to date with the latest achievements to remain a professional.

ASD is a common state among specific psychological conditions, and many scholars seek for the most optimal method to help people with ASD and their relatives. Psychology is exceptionally close to this issue, and there have been developed several approaches within different psychological theories. Specifically, ABA following the behavioral theory is the most efficient so far. This method was proven to be well-grounded and showed outstanding results in ASD therapy. Therefore, becoming a psychologist is the most relevant and benign decision if one aims to efficient ASD research and treatment.

I believe ASD needs the attention of practitioners and researchers, and my passion is to contribute to successful autism therapy. Individuals with ASD deserve the life they like, but their unique traits have become a concern for some societies, and these people have to suffer from being unable to do something. People with autism are struggling with social behaviors, but all they need is an educated teacher to direct it, and I feel the passion for becoming such a teacher for them. Given the above, practicing the ABA approach is essential for helping people with ASD to preserve the invaluable right to freedom and happiness.

References

Denne, L. D., Hastings, R. P., & Hughes, J. C. (2017). UK parents’ beliefs about applied behaviour analysis as an approach to autism education. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 32(4), 543–555. Web.

Grigorenko, E. L., Torres, S., Lebedeva, E. I., & Bondar, Y. A. (2018). Evidence-based interventions for ASD: A focus on applied behavior analysis (ABA) interventions. Psychology, Journal of the Higher School of Economics, 15(4), 711–727. Web.

Payne, D. A., & Johnson, J. M. (2005). Succeeding in graduate school online: tips from successful students. College Student Journal, 39(1), 117–128.

Romanczyk, R. G. (2017). Ethical and competent practice in applied behavior analysis. In J. K. Luiselli (Ed.), Applied Behavior Analysis Advanced Guidebook. (pp. 389–408). San Diego: Elsevier.

Shawler, L. A., Blair, B. J., Harper, J. M., & Dorsey, M. F. (2018). A survey of the current state of the scientist-practitioner model in applied behavior analysis. Education and Treatment of Children, 41(3), 277–297. Web.