What is a typical day like for a Behavior Therapist?
You’d be surprised by everything that happens in the day-to-day life of a Behavior Therapist (BT). Throughout an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy session with a child, BTs help set up effective routines and lead children in activities to develop their communication and social skills, just to name a few.
Since Behavior Therapists work directly with primary caregivers, it’s important to check in with parents at the start of each session to see how the child’s day has been so far. When I do this at the beginning of a session, I’m able to get an idea of what to expect during the session moving forward. This information also allows me the opportunity to strategize session activities around the child’s needs. A session’s activity schedule would be different for a child who is having a rough day and has had little rest, with calming activities like coloring or large motor activities to get the wiggles out. For a child who is having a great day and is fully rested, we can try more challenging activities or ones that require more concentration.
As an BT, I also help patients with their daily activities.
At the start of each session, I spend some time pairing myself with reinforcers, which means I have some fun toys on hand to give the child, as well as some fun activities to start with, so they associate me with positive reinforcement. I also run a preference assessment to identify which activities (e.g., swinging) or toys (e.g., cars) the client is motivated for that day. We try a few of these enjoyable activities, and I offer the child a few toys, to see what they’re most excited about. This is a typical strategy BTs use to help children transition into the “work” part of our program.
When we start “working”, I use the Premack Principle, which uses first/then statements to offer a fun activity immediately after the child successfully completes a harder activity. I might say, “First, let’s brush your teeth, and then you can swing.” Then, after presenting the instructions for our next activity, I’ll prompt the child to do each task and reinforce their accomplishments, while I also score the client’s progress on each skill.
When it comes to choosing programs, I generally begin with easier skills that are ready to be mastered, like saying “Hi” when someone walks into a room. This helps build the behavior momentum towards more challenging programs; this helps children feel good and keeps them engaged.
During sessions, I often lead recreational activities to help children develop their skill sets and have fun.
For example, I might coordinate an arts and crafts session, so that the child can draw pictures while learning how to identify shapes and colors. Or, I might set up a series of movie clips for the child to watch when learning to identify the emotions of others. I might also use games and puzzles to help teach a kiddo how to ask for help or to demonstrate turn-taking.
Towards the end of the session, I request help from the child to clean up their activity area and give the guardian an update on how their child is doing in terms of their progress on programs, which I have ready in my detailed notes from the session. Then, I complete my communication log notes, describing for medical care providers the activities of the day and measuring the child’s outcomes. The best feeling in the world is when I can share a major moment with a parent, like a connection I made with a child when we connected over our shared love of dogs.
During clinical sessions, I observe patients and record their activities, based on programs written by our BCBA colleagues. In addition to running programs and implementing behavior plans, I record and report any unusual behaviors that arise. For instance, if a client begins engaging in verbal aggression for the first time throughout a regularly-held session, it is important to make note of it in clinical notes so as to strategize extinction techniques with my BCBA. Doing so can help eliminate the unwanted behavior before it becomes habitual.
Working with children with autism as a Behavior Therapist is a uniquely rewarding experience. If you enjoy working with children and are eager to help children learn and achieve things they never thought they could, then the position as a BT is perfect for you.
For more information on open Behavior Therapist jobs at Kyo, visit our Careers page.