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The BT/RBT Turnover issue facing the field of ABA is a pervasive, industry-wide, systems related problem involving many stakeholder groups that will require a deliberate, macro-level, systematic approach to resolve. But, in a nutshell, I think the crux of the problem is that the second greatest beneficiary of the work of BTs/RBTs – namely, ABA organizations – don’t respect role of BTs/RBTs as professionals deserving the same recognition, appreciation and opportunities given to other professionals.
The ABA Services industry, a multi-billion dollar industry experiencing explosive demand and unprecedented shortage of BTs/RBTs has grown primarily from dollars generated by reimbursement for billable hours produced by BTs/RBTs, yet we continue to treat this group of clinicians (please note that I’m using the word “clinician”) as expendable commodities instead of a collective of professionals who form the foundation and make up the critical infrastructure of our field; without whom the “Autism industry” would cease to exist.
On the flip side, after so many years of being treated as essential, yet expendable members of the field of ABA (as I write this, I wonder if most BTs/RBTs even feel like they’re part of the field of ABA since the field has done little to make them feel welcome) BTs and RBTs have developed some bad habits that is causing substantial harm to clients. They quit – all the time – often without providing sufficient notice to adequately transition clients to other providers.
If an average tenure of an RBT is 9 to 12 months, how much damage are we causing our clients in diminished independence and broken promises? And shattered hearts of desperate parents? Not just once, but over, and over and over again…
With turnover, time that could be spent teaching new skills is wasted on onboarding yet another new, inexperienced, inadequately trained and supervised BT/RBT. Transitions are incredibly challenging for people with autism, yet we force the same group of people we’re supposed to be helping to experience feelings of confusion, pain, panic, irritation, anger, fear, frustration and sense of helplessness as yet another person who’s supposed to be part of their support systems lets them down again.
As an industry, whether due to short-sightedness, inattention, ignorance or corporate greed, we created this mess. Our current system and common business practices of hiring BTs/RBTs as hourly workers who are expected to absorb client cancellation risks, given limited benefits and too little PTO, little to no professional development opportunities, sub-standard supervision provided by inexperienced supervisors, unpaid drive time and breaks, no career path for lifer-RBTs and total lack of support for the emotional and mental toll that this job takes on people makes BTs and RBTs want to quit. ALL THE TIME.
Yet, there’s a right way to transition. BTs and RBTs, please do it properly.


Parent Waitlist Program


November 02, 2023 | 12pm-1pm PDT

Journey to Independence

Community-based program designed to support families on waitlist

Being an RBT for me was extremely fun because where were you going to find a place where you can be completely silly without having to worry what people thought about you? This was the only job that made me feel like I could make a dramatic difference while being myself.

I also liked to be surrounded by people that had the same goals of wanting to help kids and the teamwork made the job much easier and more enjoyable.

Change and progress was the ultimate goal for our kiddos. The early intervention program was seriously only a miracle because I saw changes in the kiddos that from day one, you wouldn’t even recognize who they were.

Changes from being able to utter 3-4 words where they can only make a syllable from when they started, the behavior decreases in which kiddo that used to engage in 30-40 0 self-harm to only half, learning how to wait during games, table work where they use to swipe and drop to the floor if they had to.

My favorite was when the parents would tell us what amazing progress they were making at home. I used to tear up and felt for these parents so much because it was already difficult for them and now, they can trust and rely on ABA and the therapists knowing their goal was ours.

By Emma Rogers, BA, RBT

Mother Child
Special Learning’s Free Hotline

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