This depends on the clinical needs of an individual, but the work of an ABA therapist is quite dynamic. Typically, an ABA therapist’s job includes implementation of the Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP), skill building lessons (these are commonly called “programs” in the field of ABA), and engaging in play with the learner.
The BIP is specific to each client and will likely consist of one or more ABA based principles to reduce challenging behaviors and increase socially appropriate, desirable behaviors. The techniques ABA therapist may use include positive reinforcement, redirection, shaping, or extinction (just to name a few). The skill building lessons or programs the ABA therapists conduct will also vary from individual to individual based on their clinical needs. These might include lessons such as washing hands, number/letter/color identification, initiating and maintaining play with a peer, reciprocal conversation, motor skills, and so much more.
It is important to note that BIPs and skill building programs are established by the supervising BCBA and are based on the initial and ongoing assessments. ABA therapists do not conduct assessments, and they do not design BIPs or skill building programs. The BCBA on the team is responsible for these roles and will consult the family/caregivers so the most effective and individualized behavioral and skill building goals are designed.
Finally, an ABA therapist will spend a lot of time engaging in play, conversation, and desirable activities with the client. This helps to establish and maintain rapport and positive relationships. Additionally, many learning opportunities can be created and captured during play and conversation. A good ABA therapist will seize these opportunities to work on useful skills even while the learner and ABA therapist are playing and having fun. Some of the skills that can be taught loosely during play and conversation include but are not limited to: sharing and turn taking, reciprocal conversation (asking each other questions and answering each other’s questions), waiting and tolerance (such as waiting for your turn or tolerating winning/losing appropriately), imaginative play (pretending to act like characters), pretend play, environmental labeling, and so much more!
The work of an ABA therapist is based on the scientific principles of ABA. It is also dynamic, creative, educational, compassionate, and fun!