Children with autism and other behavior disorders often need special therapy to help them develop appropriate behaviors at home, during school and in the community. A behavior intervention specialist is the expert who provides that training. This psychology professional works with the child, parents and teachers to improve the child’s overall functioning.
Basic Skills and Characteristics
Those who work in the field of psychology -- behavioral analysis is a specialized area within the field -- need excellent communication skills to speak with and listen to patients, parents and teachers. Analytical skills are also vital, as the specialist must be able to assess an individual’s behavior and interactions with other people, and come to logical conclusions about the causes and possible solutions. Behavior intervention specialists need a great deal of patience; treatment may take a long time and involve much repetition. They must also be able to maintain confidentiality to protect their patients and families.
Teaching About Behavior
The primary focus of a behavior intervention specialist’s job is to teach appropriate behavior to a child with autism or another behavioral disorder. Many children who have autism or other behavioral disorders need special training to recognize interpersonal cues and structured guidelines to reinforce what they learn. The first goal is to decrease or eliminate behavior that is considered maladaptive, such as temper tantrums, verbal outbursts or physical violence. The second goal is to increase “functional” behaviors, such as improved communication skills. For example, a specialist may help a child learn to express anger without shouting or hitting.
Secondary tasks for a behavior intervention specialist are related to the primary goals. The specialist might teach parents and teachers how to reinforce desirable behavior and supervise their interactions with the child. The specialist must document all such activities and incorporate them into the treatment plan. The specialist might also attend meetings related to the children in the treatment program; develop training materials; or conduct workshops for parents and educators about behavioral analysis and intervention. Some specialists might also supervise other staff who work with children in the treatment program.
A bachelor’s degree in psychology is the minimum educational requirement for a behavior intervention specialist, and many organizations require a master’s degree. A behavior intervention specialist is not considered a psychologist and need not be licensed in the field, but may be required to have a teaching certificate in some states. Some organizations may require certification in behavior analysis. Other common requirements for employment include one or more years of experience in the field; a valid driver’s license; and the ability to pass drug screening and a criminal background check.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Psychologists
- Autism Behavior Intervention: ABA
- San Pasqual Valley Unified School District: Behavior Intervention Specialist
- Tulare County Office of Education: Behavior Intervention Specialist (2405)
- Williamson County School District: Behavior Specialist
- Cleveland Clinic Children’s: Behavioral Intervention for Children with Autism
- Photo Credit alexsokolov/iStock/Getty Images
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