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RBT TURNOVER ISSUE. What’s the cause? Lack of Quality

The ABA subreddit just recently posted asking people to stop posting about quitting. That was becoming an everyday occurrence.

The reasons for quitting are varied but can be put under the umbrella of abuse. RBTs were feeling abused because they weren’t getting enough hours; they were paid poorly; they were treated poorly; they weren’t getting breaks; they weren’t receiving quality supervision; they were thrown onto cases with just 40 hours and no additional training. The list goes on and on but it’s in the same vein…

While I fully acknowledge that the common industry-wide business practice of treating RBTs/ BTs as expendable commodities and not as highly valued assets is causing this mass exodus, and we need to implement systems-level changes, I want to look for root causes.

One of the biggest issue that we’re facing is that we have people who are working in the field who should not be in the field. The barrier to entry to becoming an RBT is almost non-existent. 40 hours of training and a high school degree or equivalent is what it takes to allow these individuals to now implement ABA programs, often without any oversight.

Working with the autism population is hard. Yet the common practice is to throw these poorly trained, inadequately prepared individuals in clients’ homes without any lifeline.

No wonder there’s a mass exodus.

As a field, we MUST have a higher standard for people who are responsible for providing ABA services. 40 hours should be the bare minimum to get them familiar with the technology. Once that hurdle is passed, we need an RBT Development Plan that organizations follow to ensure that RBTs are always learning. And we must offer a way for these RBTs to access support – in real-time – so that they feel supported as they are doing the hard work of improving peoples’ lives.

The Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) isn’t even a certification. It’s called a “credential.” Why the distinction? Because true certifications are held to a higher standard.

Why don’t we hold the groups of people who are doing the most important work providing direct services to the same standard as other disciplines hold their “assistant” level professionals?

At least if we have a tiered system – RBT-C (RBT Certified), we can recognize and reward those RBTs who possess a higher level of education and training to create career mobility for career RBTs.

What am I proposing for the RBT-C Certification?
1) Minimum Associates Level or equivalent credits
2) 180 hours of training
3) Minimum 3 years of experience in a related field

What we need are dedicated career RBTs, not groups of transient workers willing to jump ship at the first challenge.

How do we reduce turnover among RBT? Change the requirements such that the RBT is viewed as a career, not a part-time job.

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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
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