August 9, 2017
Patrick D. Paul
Incidence rates for neurological disorders like Autism are exploding, baby boomers are aging, and strapped dual-income families are unable to support the needs of their loved ones. Agencies spend countless hours and dollars recruiting; burnout is disproportionately high and pay is exceedingly low compared to other industries. Most importantly, those in need of care, who entrust their physical and emotional health to their direct support professionals, repeatedly have to mourn the loss of caregivers who quickly move on to higher-paying jobs.
Indeed, it has become increasingly clear that we are on the verge of a caregiving crisis in our country. So, how do we position ourselves to manage such a problem?
This type of crisis management starts by addressing the core issue: a lack of upward mobility for the movers and shakers behind the scenes who give so much and get so little in return – our direct support professionals.
At long last, upward mobility is no longer a vision, but a potential reality for countless direct support professionals all over the country. The Behavior Analyst Certification Board has formalized a paraprofessional track that could make a substantial impact – not only for the folks on our team here at Anderson Center for Autism and agencies like ours, but for the families who so desperately want the absolute best for their loved ones.
The program, which results in designation as an RBT (Registered Behavior Technician) allows eligible direct support professionals to acquire training rooted in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), one of the most widely accepted, successful methodologies in the field.
After completing 40 hours of coursework, a competency assessment, and passing an exam, staff move from a direct support role into the paraprofessional RBT role within their organization. This shift comes with the opportunity to collaborate more directly with therapists and healthcare professionals on the team, to earn more money, and to begin a track toward higher-level management positions. Moreover, the expanded level of expertise gained through the training typically brings greater confidence in their work, which immediately impacts those individuals they serve. To find out more about the credential, go to Bacb.com/rbt
At Anderson Center for Autism we have approximately 900 employees, about 550 of whom are direct support professionals. 80 have been extended the opportunity to gain the RBT designation this year. They will have continual supervision by a board-certified Behavior Analyst, but will be a more solid part of our clinical team. Not only can they more closely confer with higher-level staff on a wide range of issues, but we have already discovered that this designation helps our team relate better to the individuals they are serving. The education they obtain to become an RBT gives them a much deeper understanding of the “why” behind certain behaviors, and “how” they can work to resolve it.
A real career track for direct support professionals leads to increased employee retention, greater feelings of self-worth, more substantial compensation, and more exceptional service delivery.
Ultimately, it is not just a career track – but a path to a higher quality of life for all.
Patrick Paul is chief executive officer and executive director of the Anderson Center for Autism