What is an RBT? The Role of the Registered Behavior Technician in Autism Treatment

ABA Therapist

One of the essential roles within ABA therapy is that of the Registered Behavior Technician (RBT). Working under the supervision of a BCBA, an RBT provides direct care for children with autism and other neurodevelopmental differences.

The following information will guide you in understanding what an RBT is and the way they make a difference in the lives of children with autism and their families. For parents and caregivers, we’ll discuss what to look for in an RBT, including signs that an RBT is a great match for your child.

In addition, for those interested in pursuing a position as an RBT, we’ll outline the requirements for the position, what to expect in this role, and opportunities for career development. Read on to attain a thorough understanding of the RBT position and how they support their learners through ABA therapy.

What is an RBT?

A Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) is an individual who has earned certification through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB).

As an entry-level position in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis, to become an RBT, you do not need to complete any higher education, although some companies may have degree requirements.

Many people work as an RBT as they earn their bachelor’s or master’s degrees. This position provides an excellent opportunity for real-world experience for those pursuing careers in the education and human services fields.

 The requirements for becoming an RBT include:

●      A high school diploma or GED

●      At least 18 years of age

●      Currently reside in the US, Canada, Australia, or the UK

●      Passing a criminal background check and abuse registry check

●      Successful completion of a 40-hour RBT course

●      Completion of an initial competency assessment performed by a BCBA or an assistant assessor who is overseen by a BCBA

●      A passing score on the RBT certification exam

The role of an RBT is primarily to provide direct therapy services, as directed by their supervising BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst).

RBTs help children develop communication and social skills, increase their independence in daily activities, and reduce interfering behaviors by implementing the child’s individualized treatment plan and behavior intervention plan goals.

RBTs also take data each session on all goals targeted. This data supports the BCBA in analyzing the learner’s progress and identifying when program modifications are necessary.

While a BCBA plays a vital role in assessing learners and creating interventions using the principles of ABA, a successful ABA program depends on dedicated behavior technicians.

How RBTs Support Children with Autism

Each child is unique in their strengths and areas of needed growth. Many children with autism experience challenges related to communicating and relating to others. Interfering behaviors are common as well.

For example, they may engage in aggressive or self-injurious behaviors or other behaviors that interfere with their ability to learn and engage with others. This is where ABA therapy comes in to help, with an RBT playing a central role.

The RBT will implement personalized strategies to teach the child new skills and reinforce positive behaviors.

For example, for a child who has limited functional communication skills, the RBT may teach them to communicate their wants and needs effectively. This may look many different ways. If the child has vocal speech abilities, they may work on teaching the child to vocally communicate their needs. Alternatively, for children with limited vocal abilities, they may teach the child to request items and activities via picture icons, sign language, or with assistive technology.

RBTs make a significant difference in the lives of their learners. It can’t be understated the positive impact they have by improving their client’s overall functioning and quality of life.

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What Does the RBT Do?

RBTs use behavioral principles and strategies as outlined in each child’s treatment plan to teach new skills and modify behaviors. Each RBT is trained by a BCBA on the individualized goals for their learner.

 Some of the common ABA therapy techniques RBTs use include

●      Positive reinforcement. At the heart of ABA is positive reinforcement. This involves adding something enjoyable or preferred following a specific behavior, which then results in the behavior occurring more often in the future. If a child is learning to independently wash their hands, the RBT might provide praise and give them a high-5 after they wash their hands. The child enjoys this social praise and therefore begins to wash their hands independently more frequently.

●      Natural environment teaching (NET). RBTs may incorporate learning opportunities into everyday activities, including play. For example, if a child is working on self-advocacy skills, the RBT might use naturally occurring conflicts during play to develop these skills. 

●      Chaining. For complex skills such as brushing teeth or washing hands, an RBT may use a chaining procedure. This consists of breaking down a larger skill into smaller steps and teaching each step while building on to the last. For example, there are multiple steps to brushing your teeth. You have to find your toothbrush and toothpaste, wet the brush, put toothpaste on, and so on. A chaining procedure would teach each of these steps until the child learns each step in the correct sequence.

Learn about more common ABA therapy techniques that your child’s RBT may use here.

How to Tell if an RBT is a Good Match for Your Child

It is only natural to be concerned about who your child is working with, especially when they are spending several hours each week with their RBT. Not every therapist is the best match for each child. With differences in teaching styles, skillsets, personalities, and energy levels, what one technician brings to the table might be exactly what one learner needs, yet another learner may find them aversive.

 Here are a few ways you can tell if an RBT is a good match for your child.

●      The RBT and your child appear to have established rapport. Your child should appear to be having fun during therapy. When a new technician begins, they spend time pairing before placing demands. This involves spending time engaged in activities that are most preferred by your child. It’s important for them to establish a genuine connection with your child. If your child is more often running from them than toward them, the RBT may not be the best match. Some children take more time than others to warm up to new people though, so it’s important to allow the rapport process some time.

●      The RBT shows compassion and empathy. Every child deserves compassion and empathy. Learning new skills and having routines changed can be challenging for children with autism. Pay attention to whether your RBT appears understanding and compassionate.

●      The RBT demonstrates an understanding of your child’s unique goals. Pay attention to whether the RBT can implement your child’s goals correctly. If something doesn’t quite seem right, like one RBT is doing things differently from the others, bring your concerns to the BCBA.

●      The RBT communicates well with you and other caregivers. The RBT’s primary job is to work 1:1 with your child. However, they should also be able to effectively communicate with you and other caregivers. If you have questions, they should be able to answer them or direct you to who can answer them. They should also be able to provide you with an overview of how the session went, so you are always in the loop on your child’s progress.

What to Expect During ABA Therapy With the RBT

Each ABA therapy session will look different, depending on the setting, the child’s goals, preferences, and more. It’s important for you to communicate any preferences, priorities, and cultural considerations you may have with the BCBA so they can create a program that is uniquely suited for your family.

When your child begins working with an RBT, the first sessions will consist of rapport building, as noted above. The majority of the session will be your child and the technician engaged in play or other activities that your child is interested in. This is an important step in the process.

As the rapport develops, the RBT will slowly begin to introduce learning opportunities and teach skills as outlined by the BCBA. There is typically a slow ramp-up of expectations until the RBT works up to a comfortable balance of play and teaching. This, again, is individualized based on the child’s age, abilities, and needs. Some children may learn with their RBT at a table or other structured space. Others may learn with their RBT exclusively within play and other naturally occurring events.

The RBT will record data on every goal in each session. They will also write a session note at the end of every session, which you should have access to view. The BCBA reviews and analyzes the data on an ongoing basis to make decisions about the progression of therapy such as when to introduce new goals and when to modify current goals.

Considerations for Becoming an RBT

For those interested in pursuing a rewarding career as an RBT, we’ll review some key information regarding what to expect.

For starters, the ABA field continues to experience high demand, making an RBT career an excellent choice for job security and career advancement.

The BACB does not publish employment demand for RBTs, but they do for BCBAs and BCaBAs. What we know from that information is that Board Certified Behavior Analysts are in high demand, increasing each year since 2010. BCBAs experienced a 23% demand increase from 2021 to 2022. With an increased demand for BCBAs comes an increased demand for RBTs to provide direct services.

RBT Training

To become an RBT, the first step is to take a 40-hour RBT training course. This course covers content based on the BACB’s 2nd edition task list for RBTs. In this course, you’ll learn about basic ABA concepts and principles and how to implement those skills when working with clients. Following completion of the 40-hour course, you’ll need to demonstrate understanding of these concepts via a competency assessment, conducted by a BCBA. Lastly, you’ll take a final exam. Upon passing the exam, you will be a registered behavior technician.

RBT Salary

An RBT’s pay can vary significantly based on location, experience, and education level. According to ABAtherapistjobs.com, the average hourly wage of an entry-level RBT is between $15 and $23. Salaried RBTs can expect to make between $30,000 and $50,000 annually.

Career Opportunities

The ABA field offers many opportunities for career advancement. Many companies have career growth plans including higher-level RBT roles with additional training and responsibilities as you progress.

In addition to career development as an RBT, there are opportunities for growth into a mid-level supervisory role in organizations that have a 3-tier supervision format. Typically a mid-level supervisory role requires additional education and an ability to demonstrate strong leadership skills.

Additionally, for those pursuing their bachelor’s or master’s degree, career advancement may include obtaining certification as a BCBA or BCaBA, which opens up many additional career opportunities.

Skills Required for an RBT

RBTs require many skills to be successful in their role. Here are a few of the skills expected:

Communication skills. RBTs require strong communication skills as they are regularly expected to effectively communicate with their learners, families, supervisors, and other members of the child’s team.

Problem-solving skills. RBTs need to demonstrate strong problem-solving skills and an ability to think and react quickly.

General knowledge of ABA. An RBT is not required to have advanced knowledge of ABA principles and the science behind it. However, to be successful as an RBT, they do need to have a strong understanding of basic ABA principles, as outlined in the RBT task list.

Conclusion

RBTs play a vital role in improving the lives of their learners. With the right support and guidance from a BCBA, RBTs can help their learners achieve their goals and reach their full potential. RBTs are also in high demand, making it a perfect entry-level career for anyone looking for a career change. The contribution RBTs make to the ABA field is invaluable.

References

https://www.bacb.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Lightcast2023_230206-a.pdf

https://www.bacb.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/RBTHandbook_230407-a.pdf

https://www.abatherapistjobs.com/salaries/average-rbt-salary

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