How to Become an Applied Behavior Analyst in Idaho

The state of Idaho does not currently require licensing for the practice of applied behavior analysis, and there are no proposals or political efforts within the state to begin ABA licensing.

In many states, the push to license applied behavior analysts has come in concert with efforts to improve care for patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Applied behavior analysis is one treatment for ASD that has been scientifically validated, and the epidemic of autism diagnoses in the United States has lead to a huge demand for ABA therapists. One in every sixty-eight American kids are diagnosed with ASD, a number that has exploded since the year 2000.

Idaho is no exception, with ASD diagnosis rates that, according to Idaho Autism, increased by 2800 percent between 1993 and 2007.

But Idaho has a small population and despite this increase, only around 600 kids in the state suffer from ASD, ranking it 42nd out of 50 states for ASD diagnoses. The number has not been large enough to sustain a political effort to pass legislation governing either autism services or for ABA licensure.

Nonetheless, ABA is practiced in Idaho, on patients with autism and other afflictions that have been shown to be treatable with behavior therapy, including:

  • Depression
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Fears and phobias
  • Anger management issues

In lieu of a professional license, many practitioners in Idaho have made the effort to become certified as Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA®s) by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). The BACB is a national non-profit organization founded in 1998 to handle the needs of states, the insurance industry, and the profession itself by establishing certification, as well as ethics and practice standards.

BCBA® Certification as the De Facto Standard for Professional Behavior Analysts in Idaho

Although a BCBA® is not required to practice behavior analysis in Idaho, many practitioners find advantages in obtaining the certification for a variety of reasons. In the absence of a license law, a BCBA® provides employers and potential clients some assurance that the provider has met rigid professional standards and has been trained according to industry best practices.

Although insurance companies are not required to cover ABA services in Idaho, some insurers also require providers to hold a BCBA® in order to bill for providing ABA therapies.

The BACB’s rigid requirements for awarding a BCBA® fall into three categories:

  • Education
  • Experience
  • Testing

Education to Qualify for BCBA® Certification

An advanced degree is the cornerstone of becoming qualified as an ABA. A masters or doctorate in applied behavior analysis, education, or psychology that meets BACB curriculum requirements is the standard route to becoming a BCBA®.

Earning a qualifying degree at an institution that is on the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) accredited programs list is the clearest way to obtain qualification for the BCBA®. Each of these programs has been certified to have the right mix of classes that make up the BACB’s pre-approved course sequence for BCBA® certification.

If you do obtain a master’s or higher degree in another field or from another institution, you may still meet the requirements, however. Some schools offer BACB approved course sequences independent of a graduate program for those that already hold a degree but still need to take the required courses. It’s possible to incorporate these into a focus or concentration in other advanced degree programs, or to take them as a separate graduate certificate at some colleges. Either route can satisfy the BCBA® requirements.

It’s still possible to obtain a BCBA® without following any of these steps, provided that whatever courses you did take in achieving your master’s or doctoral degree have sufficient content to meet the course content allocation requirements and your institution is accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The BACB has to evaluate each of these special cases separately, however, and will do so prior to allowing you to take the National Behavior Analyst Exam.

Since there are no institutions in Idaho that offer a BACB-approved course sequence, you will probably be looking at online graduate degree programs that meet the necessary requirements. By enrolling in an online master’s program in applied behavior analysis, you can avoid many of the hassles and expenses that come with relocating to attend a traditional degree program. Out-of-state tuition fees can be enormous if you do not establish residency, making online offerings far more affordable. You can also time-shift many of your class responsibilities in online courses, completing the coursework at times that are convenient for you and allowing you to continue working a regular job or fulfilling other obligations.

Experience to Qualify for BCBA® Certification

A great deal of hands-on experience in ABA practice is also required in order to obtain certification. For many students, this comes in the form of supervised independent fieldwork, working in a school or hospital or clinic with real patients under the supervision of an experienced BCBA®-holder.

The BACB requires 1500 hours of this type of experience before you will be eligible to take the National Behavior Analyst Exam. You are responsible for lining up your own supervised fieldwork opportunities through a private clinic offering ABA services, such as:

  • Desert Autism and Learning Center, Pocatello
  • Focused Behavior Solutions, Sandpoint
  • JF BCBA® Solutions, Boise

Another option, however, is to undertake a practicum or intensive practicum course as a part of your master’s degree program. These offer hands-on experience as a graded course, with supervision arranged by your school. You will have to accumulate 1000 practicum hours or 750 intensive practicum hours to qualify and pass the course with at least a C grade.

The difference between regular and intensive practicum is in the degree of supervision; an intensive will have at least 10 percent of the hours supervised, while only 7.5 percent of regular practicum hours are supervised. Your supervisor will fill out a form attesting to your completion of the required hours and evaluating your professionalism and performance.

It’s also possible to combine experience hours from practica and filedwork in order to qualify for to set for the BCBA® Exam.

Taking the Test to Qualify for BCBA® Certification

The final step in acquiring a BCBA® is to take the National Behavior Analyst Exam. The exam is administered by Pearson VUE.

Pearson Professional Centers in Boise is the only location available to take the exam in Idaho.

You will be given four hours to complete 150 multiple-choice questions. The questions are split into two general categories and cover the following topics:

  • Behavior analytic skills
    • Fundamental elements of behavior change – 26 questions
    • Measurement – 15 questions
    • Experimental design – 11 questions
    • Behavior change systems – 8 questions
    • Behavior change considerations – 3 questions
  • Client-centered responsibilities (includes at least two ethics questions)
    • Intervention – 23 questions
    • Problem identification – 14 questions
    • Management, implementation, and supervision – 14 questions
    • Assessment – 12 questions
    • Measurement – 9 questions

Click here for detailed step-by-step instructions on the BCBA® credentialing process.

Practicing as an ABA in Idaho

The provider community in Idaho is small and the largely rural nature of the state means that most BCBA® positions involve some travel and a preponderance of home-based services. Most positions will require a driver’s license and having your own transportation.

Some positions require a BCBA® while others only require ABA experience or an intention to pursue certification.

ABAs spend quite a lot of time working with parents and caregivers of patients, as well as teachers and other medical professionals who have regular contact with the patient. Coordination is necessary to implement consistent and effective Behavioral Intervention Plans (BIPs) that all caregivers adhere to.

Being a provider in a small community can also mean having a degree of independence uncommon in other areas. As an ABA working in Idaho, you will find relatively few peers in the field, creating the potential for more opportunities for employment and independent practice.

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