Autism Resource blog:

10 Questions to ask your BCBA (and a few you don’t have to)

Jan 18, 2021
Allie H.
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1. How do you decide what goals to work on?

This is an excellent opportunity to make sure you and your Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) are on the same page. Also, it’s important for you to know that you are in the driver's seat. Tell your BCBA where you want to go, and we’ll tell you how to get there. Things may not look familiar right away, but have faith in your navigator. The BCBA is tailoring your therapy so that it is specialized for your child, and the car doesn’t move without you.

2. What made you choose to study ABA?

There are lots of us out there who are very passionate about ABA—use this opportunity to see what your BCBA is passionate about and see if you’ve found a good fit.

3. What is your style of ABA therapy?

Asking this question will give you a better idea of the type of activities your BCBA may perform with your child. If you are imagining table-top work and your BCBA stays on the floor (or vice versa), it may ease your mind to know the method behind the madness. 

Finding out what method the BCBA chooses to use for your child might also tell you more about your child, how they learn, or get you thinking of helpful ideas. For example, if you all decide to focus on language-building and your BCBA suggests using incidental teaching (or teaching in the moment as things happen), it may be helpful to have siblings present during in-home sessions to encourage more chatter.

4. If I have a question, what is the best way(s) for us to communicate?

If we don’t already say it enough, communication is so important! You may also take comfort in knowing that talking to your BCBA does not have to be a formal meeting; it’s a team effort that is ongoing and always changing. However, everyone has different preferences for methods, and YOUR preference is important too. Don’t be afraid to provide your BCBA with some input and requests.

5. What will happen if services stop?

All BCBAs are held to a high standard by their governing board, the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB), which has Ethical Guidelines. All BCBAs have an ethical obligation to you within the Behavior-Change program to supervise the treatment as it’s carried out. Transition and discharge plans should be discussed before therapy begins. All situations are unique and subject to even more unique variables, so talking about this at the beginning will help you feel more at ease knowing what would happen in the event of an abrupt change of any kind.

6. What will I be expected to do when therapy starts?

Confirming this information will help you feel confident in knowing that you’re doing your part. Parents are crucial parts of the therapy process - we depend on you as much as you depend on us!

7. If I feel uncomfortable, what should I say?

This is just an overall good question to throw out there because there may be times when you feel uncomfortable. That is not to say you should be alarmed, but the programs will likely teach and prompt you to do different things, some of which may be out of your personal comfort zone. And that is more than OK. If there's one thing most BCBAs love, it's feedback. When we work with a child, feedback from the parent is essential so it's important for us to know if something makes you feel uncomfortable. A good BCBA will be very grateful to have that insight, and a great BCBA will never shame you for advocating for yourself.

8. Can I ask you other/general questions about my child?

Other questions will pop up as you and your child are working with your BCBA. The worst thing they can say is, “I don’t know” or “that’s out of my skill set,” but the questions are nonetheless valuable. Your child’s life does not start and stop with ABA therapy, so if there are concerns outside of that or curiosities you have, rest assured your BCBA is someone with whom you can consult.

9. Have you worked with someone like my child before?

This question is an important one because it speaks to the level of experience related to your primary concern. If a BCBA has only worked with children during early intervention, they may not have as much experience working with a teenager preparing for high school or college.

Do you feel like there isn’t anyone like your child?? That’s something you can share with your BCBA too. Think about the things they do and why you feel that way. You might be surprised and learn that your BCBA specializes in a particular area that is meaningful for your child!

10. What will happen if I don't like something you recommend?

This is perfectly ok to ask because, again, there may be something you aren’t on board with and your BCBA will want to know that. In addition, your consent to treatment is an ethical requirement. By sharing your concern, your BCBA will have a better idea of how to further individualize programming for your child so that you feel comfortable participating actively in the Behavior-Change program.

...and 3 Questions it’s better not to ask:

1. What do you want for your birthday?

You may come to like your BCBA so much so that you want to shower them with gifts. Believe me when I tell you--your child’s progress is our reward. Additionally, the behavior-change program itself can be complex, and we have an ethical responsibility to protect you and your child. Gifts can make things confusing, and that’s just not something we’re willing to risk. So please believe us when we say, “No thank you!”

2. Do we have to be friends on social media?

Your BCBA is there to support you and your learner, and that therapeutic relationship is all you have to worry about. Having another type of relationship with you, the client, poses unnecessary risks to your child and their program. 

3. If we don't celebrate Christmas, are you still going to get us gifts? 

Don’t worry, we won’t! As part of our ethical code of conduct, we refrain from giving clients gifts of any kind so that no one ruins the fun and exploits you ;) 

(However, it is OK to ask: “If we don’t celebrate Christmas, will that be a problem?” because the best BCBA for the job will tell you, “No, that will not be a problem at all.”)

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