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What Is It Like to Work in an Autism Clinic?

Image of child writing for our FAQ What is it Like to Work in an Autism Clinic?

Working in an Autism Clinic or ABA Clinic

Autism clinics are a primary source of help for those with ASD, or autism spectrum disorder. These autistic clinics provide many services for children and young adults diagnosed with ASD, as well as adults who are on the autism spectrum and have recieved an autism diagnosis. ABA clinics and autism clinics also provide education and support for clients’ families.
ABA clinics offer hands on personalized instruction for all ages; the area of instruction depends on the age of the clients. In the case of children with ASD, as opposed to young adults, the behavior modification therapy to develop more appropriate behavior may have to do with social skills, toilet training, or feeding skills.
For young adults diagnosed with ASD, as well as for children, clinics provide behavior modification therapy in order to help them develop more appropriate behavior, whether this is verbal behavior or social skills. Young adults with an autism diagnosis may also need training on how to apply for a job or other social skills that are required for everday life. They can receive hands-on personalized instruction for these areas from board certified behavior analysts at an ABA clinic.

ABA Clinic Staff

Autism clinics rely on a diverse team of staff members on a daily basis. Professionals that might work at an ABA clinic include:
  • board certified behavior analysts
  • technicians
  • administrative personnel 
  • professional specialists
Staff members at these centers work closely with colleagues and interact with clients.

Services Offered at Autism Clinics

Centers provide a wide range of services related to the diagnosis and management of ASD. Some clinics focus on specific issues related to the disorder or on patients of a certain age, such as children with autism. However, many serve general community needs. This may include children with autism or young adults diagnosed with autism. Most clinics conduct an initial interview, consultation and diagnostic process. This helps them develop a deeper understanding of each patient diagnosed with autism. This allows the clinics to help with verbal behavior and physical behavior. ABA clinics and autism clinics offer several types of treatment options. These may include:
  • medical management
  • directed therapy sessions
  • family education
  • ongoing evaluations
  • applied behavior analysis

How is Applied Behavior Analysis Used in an ABA Clinic?An image of a little boy sitting on a sofa for our article on ABA clinics

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) serves a primary role in the design of many therapy programs. Applied behavior analysis is using the study of behavior to change people’s behavior. It is often used when working with autism clients.
With that being said, ABA can help others, too. A board certified behavior analyst may work in an autism facility or in ABA clinics. They help to improve verbal behavior and physical behavior. 
Usually, an ABA therapist will start by having an interview with the client. This helps the therapist find out what kind of behaviors the client needs help changing. This may be verbal behavior or physical behavior. Then the therapist will make a plan for how best to help change these behaviors. 
ABA clinics use various philosophies of behavior analysis. They are used for working with autism and those with verbal behavior issues. This varies depending on which ABA clinic you are visiting. Some of these ABA therapy philosophies are structured, while others are more play-based. Most ABA therapists who work at an ABA clinic use the antedecent-behavior-consequence sequence. This helps them to analyze and then change behavior.
The antecedent is what comes directly before the behavior. For example, a child feeling hungry could be an antecedent. 
The behavior is simply the behavior that the ABA therapist is seeking to change. In this example, this is when the child starts to kick, scream and cry. The antecedent is that she wants a snack. The behavior is when she asks for it in a violent and loud way. 
The consequence is the end of the sequence. It is also what determines whether the behavior is repeated. In our example, the child is hungry (antecendent). Then she asks for a snack by kicking and screaming (behavior). In fact, the child’s parents are in the habit of giving the child the snack whenever she asks in this way. This is the consequence. This makes her much more likely to repeat the behavior in the future. 
So, the behavior analyst has to change the consequence in order for the child’s behavior to change. Instead of giving the child what she wants, the therapist might wait calmly until the child calms down and asks quietly. The screaming and kicking behavior was unsuccessful. This means the child is much less likely to repeat the behavior in the future. 
The child’s behavior may change back. This could happen if the parents revert to their old consequence once they leave the ABA clinic. This is why information is so important for clients at an autism facility. Parents and guardians must know how to maintain the new behaviors the child is learning at the ABA clinic through ABA therapy. This applies to verbal behavior as well as social skills.

Providing Patient-Oriented Care

Autism has a unique impact on each individual. Strategies for working with autism are usually designed with this in mind. This means that the ABA clinic strives to cater to the needs of clients whenever possible. Staff members must follow suit.
Anyone working at an autism facility needs to exercise patience every day. They also need clear communication skills. This is especially true for those practicing ABA therapy. 
Some ABA clinic centers offer long-term care services for parents with demanding schedules. (Center for Autism and Related Disorders.)
It can be difficult for parents to entrust their child’s behavioral training to someone else. This is true even if the person in question is a trained applied behavior analysis professional. It is important that patients and their families know that they are being cared for. This is why communication skills are so important for working at an ABA clinic.

Staff Positions and SpecialistsAn image of a speech therapist with a client for our article on ABA clinics

Most autism centers use a diverse team of staff members. Their team often has varying levels of education and experience. Board certified behavior analysts often serve a leading or supervisory role. Many clinics use speech therapists or language pathologists to help with speech therapy.
Board certified behavior analysts and other professionals rely on a team as well. This team includes registered behavior technicians, autism specialists, and care providers. It is important that everyone who works at an ABA clinic has good communication skills.

Preparing for Employment

Are you interested in working in an autism clinic or ABA clinic? You have several options when it comes to your education and career path. If you want to be a board certified behavior analyst, you should aim for a master’s degree in a field related to applied behavior analysis. This also applies if you plan to be in other specialist roles, like a language therapist. This helps you help clients with their verbal behavior and other behaviors. Do you want to be a board certified behavior analyst? You’ll need a master’s degree or graduate certificate for certification.
Do you have a relevant undergraduate degree? You can get some hands-on experience as a technician at an ABA clinic before you get a master’s. Are you interested in becoming a clinic operator or manager? In that case, formal education in business and accounting might be a good idea.

Working in an Autism ClinicAn image of a little boy and a therapist for our article on working in an autism clinic

Autism is a complex disorder that impacts millions of people. The medical community has yet to develop a cure for the condition. But there are many ways that behavior analysts and others can offer support to patients. Behavior modification therapy and ABA principles can help with skills that are required for everyday life, such as social skills, toilet training, and feeding skills.
Working in an autism clinic or ABA clinic can be a rewarding experience if you want to help others and provide behavior modification therapy. It’s also a good opportunity to launch or build a career in the field.
July 2022
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This concludes our article on working at an ABA clinic or autism clinic.