What are the differences between ABA, BCBA, and CAS?
Applied Behavior Analysis Therapist (ABA)
An ABA therapist is a person who uses applied behavior analysis as a form of treatment. Applied Behavior Analysis is the process of studying behavior in order to put into place appropriate behavioral interventions. The therapy and term is not exclusive to autism, but typically ABA therapy is used with autistic children. ABA is a well-known and effective treatment for children with Autism when done in high quality and intensive manner.
ABA uses a great deal of positive reinforcement in order to increase desirable behaviors and improve the skills of the child. Typically, an ABA therapist works one to one with a child. Background, training, and experience varies widely for ABA therapists. Several ABA therapists may work with one child as the hours involved in early intervention are intensive.
Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA)
The Behavior Analyst Certification Board certifies individuals as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. You must have a master level degree to be a BCBA, a doctorate to have the BCBA-D, and at least a Bachelor level degree for the BCaBA. The BCBA recognizes individuals who have specific training in the principles of applied behavior analysis. A BCBA is often thought of as working with students with Autism, but it is not an Autism specific credential.
Certified Autism Specialist (CAS)
A Certified Autism Specialist is for professionals who hold a minimum of a master level degree, has worked in the field for a minimum of two years, and is required to stay current in the field of Autism by obtaining 14 CEU’s in Autism every two years.
A Certified Autism Specialist can be from any field working with students with Autism. Professionals such as speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, administrators, physical therapists, teachers, psychologists, counselors, behavior therapists, doctors, university professors, and many others obtain their CAS to demonstrate their competency and commitment to the field of Autism.
So what are the differences between ABA, BCBA, and CAS?
There are multiple differences and distinctions between ABA, BCBA, and CAS certifications. An ABA therapist provides applied behavior analysis therapy to an individual. A BCBA is a board certified individual who is trained to provide and supervise behavior analysis. Often it is a BCBA who supervises individuals providing ABA. Neither ABA nor BCBA, by definition, is Autism specific. They specialize in behavior. The CAS and AC are not behavior specific, but are Autism specific.
CAS or AC and BCBA Focus on Different Things; Can be Complementary
The CAS and AC are meant for the broad audience in the world of autism. The designations show that an individual specializes and/or remains up to date in the field of Autism. ABA therapy and BCBA is most recognizable as being used with individuals with Autism, but are not Autism specific. Many individuals who are ABA therapists and/or BCBA are recognizing the need to also have the CAS or AC designation to highlight their specialization and commitment to autism.