Congratulations! You officially passed that oh-so-fun BCBA exam and you can finally put those four letters after your name. All of your hard work in graduate school has led to this day and while you learned all about Applied Behavior Analysis in your studies, there are many things about being a Board Certified Behavior Analyst that you may not have learned in school. We are here to help you through your first 6 months as a new BCBA, with the goal of sharing some valuable information about this career as it relates to providing ABA services to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other related disorders.
First Things First
Get an NPI
One of the first things you will need to do is apply for a National Provider Identifier (NPI) number. All health care providers must have an NPI number prior to becoming credentialed with insurance companies and providing direct services to clients. And thanks to the wonderful work of our state ABA chapters and Autism Speaks, all 50 states carry the ABA mandate, deeming ABA a medical service. Apply here and select “Create or Manage an Account.”
Set up Your CAQH Profile
Once you have successfully obtained your NPI number, you will need to then set up your CAQH profile. CAQH stands for “Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare” and is the platform that most insurance companies use to verify your educational and professional background prior to approving your credentialing status. Once you set up your CAQH profile, each insurance company will request access to your profile, they will review it, reach out with questions, and then determine whether or not your credentialing application is approved. This process is often supported by your employer. Create your CAQH profile here.
Update Your Profiles
You earned that BCBA so make sure you update your professional profiles and represent your hard work! If you haven’t yet created it, a LinkedIn profile is great to have now that you’re going to be meeting and learning from many new minds and voices in the field of ABA. Get your profile set up, add those letters, and connect with your fellow graduates, colleagues, and other professionals. PS: Don’t forget that there are new rules for you about what you can and can’t post/share on social media once you’re working with clients in your new role! Check out BACB’s Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts for specific information.
Organizing Your Caseload
Different ABA companies may use different software systems to organize client and employee information. You may already have some experience with some of the more popular ones. Regardless of which ones your company uses, it is always a good idea to have your own spreadsheet to organize your particular caseload details with information. Of course, be sure to keep this list HIPAA compliant if it will be saved on your personal computer by removing any identifying information and using only client initials, instead of full names. Some helpful items to include on this list are the days and times of ongoing sessions, your supervision schedule, the hours authorized per each service code, authorization expiration dates and any recent family updates or forthcoming programming changes.
Create Your Assessment Toolkit
Every BCBA needs their toolkit! It’s always good to have your own materials on hand so make sure you’re equipped with everything you need such as: VB-MAPP assessment books, materials to run the assessment (picture cards, puzzles, toys, etc,) and a bag of fun potential reinforcers! Dollar stores and Five Below are great for this sort of thing!
For Field Staff
If you will be providing in-home services for the first time, a few things that may help you be prepared include the following tips for using your car as a mobile office (when parked, of course). What should you keep stocked at all times?
- Non-perishable snacks and beverages (a cooler with ice if you want to be fancy!)
- Chargers for your phone and laptop
- Hot Spot Wi-Fi signal set up through a mobile device
- Organizers for your trunk (those materials and reinforcers aren’t going to organize themselves!)
For Center-Based Positions
If you are going to be working in a center for the first time, below are a few pointers to make the most of your new position:
- Be considerate when sharing your workspace with others outside of session. There’s a lot of sharing going on at Centers!
- Engage in appropriate break room conversations and NEVER discuss client-specific information in public places (including outside of the therapy room and hallways).
- Always be looking for ways to be a mentor to others and to find and learn from a mentor yourself! Ask lots of questions and learn all you can.
Always Be Learning
Access these ABA Articles
As BCBAs, it is our responsibility to ensure that all interventions we recommend and implement are rooted in evidenced-based literature within Applied Behavior Analysis. One excellent resource that is made available to you once you become a BCBA is free access to these journals through the BACB’s website. Once you log in, simply go to the “Resources” tab and click the link to the database you would like to search. www.bacb.com
Learn Your Strengths and Growth Needs
When you become a BCBA, that’s when the real learning and growing starts. It’s vital to find a mentor BCBA or work with your supervisor to broaden your horizons and expand your training over time. Just because you got your creds doesn’t mean you stop learning. In fact, it means you learn even more! Work with your supervisor and mentors to ensure you can work with a wide range of clients and have experience with different types of challenges. Have you only ever worked with young kids? Do you want to work with older, higher-functioning kids? Have you ever run an assessment and created a treatment plan from scratch? Make sure you are accessing the trainings and resources you need to strengthen your skills.
We hope that the information shared in this blog is helpful and beneficial to you during your first 6 months as a new BCBA. If we can answer any questions, connect you with a resource, or just be a support to you in your own professional journey, let us know! Mentorship, collaboration, and constant learning are at the heart of the Verbal Beginnings’ brand and we’re here to support YOU at each step of the way.
By: Monique McGovern, MS, BCBA, LBA