What to Expect From a Behavioral Consultant


Here are some things you should expect from a behavioral consultant working in the DD/MR field

* They have a bachelors, master's or doctoral degree in applied behavior analysis, or in a closely related discipline (e.g., psychology, special education, human development)with an emphasis in applied behavior analysis.

* They have supervised experience implementing behavior analysis interventions for people with DD/MR.

* They follow the ethical principles, these ethical guidelines require professionals to provide only those services for which they have the appropriate training and experience.

* They adhere to the Right to Effective Treatment

* Recommended qualifications for professionals who direct and supervise applied behavior analysis programming for children with autism spectrum disorders are shown in the autism section of "www.behavior.org" (on the internet), under Guidelines for Selecting Behavior Analysts.

* Other standards and requirements may be applicable for third party reimbursement of behavioral consultation services by private insurers or government agencies, which could include supervision or direct provision of all services by a licensed psychologist, membership of the professional on a panel of approved providers, and/or recognition by a state agency as a Medicaid or other specific program provider. Well qualified providers may not be eligible for third party payment of fees by particular agencies because of closed provider panels or because they have not enrolled in the required government program. These financial factors should be discussed when arranging for services with a behavioral consultant.

When looking for a qualified behavioral consultant for a person with mental retardation or other developmental disability, you should feel comfortable asking for specific evidence of the consultant's qualifications, and should expect to get a complete answer that makes sense to you.

These are some practices you should expect from a behavioral consultant:

* They will observe the person with DD/MR where the person lives, works, or goes to school, at least a few times.

* They will develop a system for collecting objective data about the skills and needs of the person with DD/MR, and train caregivers or teachers to implement it.

* They will conduct a functional assessment or functional analysis of any problem behavior to determine why the problem occurs.

* They will develop an intervention plan, based on the functional assessment or analysis results, that addresses the factors in the person's physical and social environments that contribute to the problem, and aims to change those factors. They will seek input from caregivers and other professionals, where appropriate, in developing the intervention plan.

* This plan should include training to help the person with DD/MR develop appropriate and useful skills (instead of using "problem behavior" to get what they want), but may also include other intervention procedures.

* They will directly train caregivers or teachers to implement the intervention plan.

* They will observe the people implementing the intervention and provide feedback.

* They will modify the plan as needed to ensure its continued effectiveness, based on direct observational data.

* They will share data and collaborate with other professionals involved in the case, such as a psychiatrist if the person is receiving medication for the problem behavior or related conditions, or a psychologist who is conducting diagnostic assessments. They will also share data with family members and caregivers, and seek consultation from other professionals when needed.

* Some behavioral consultants will have a private practice, but others may work for private or public programs or services. They may provide services in schools, adult programs, community settings, or homes.

Some aspects of consultation will vary depending upon whether it is provided as a continuing part of on going service, as an intensive treatment service, or as a service provided through a hospital, private, or university group practice.
You should feel free to ask the consultant how they will help and what processes they will use. If the consultant does not say they will use the methods listed above, ask them why not. If they do not have the training to use the procedures, that means you should find a different consultant who has this training, experience and skills (even if they have a license to practice psychology or an impressive title).

We suggest that you do not use a consultant who focuses mainly on reacting to "problem behavior," unless a crisis or other particular circumstances warrant this focus. Focusing mainly on reacting to "problem behavior" will not help prevent it from happening in the future and does not represent current best practice. In crisis situations or in the case of an escalating behavior problem that requires immediate action, treatment should address both immediate concerns and preventive strategies, such as changing environments and teaching appropriate alternative skills. In most other cases, the main focus of the behavioral consultation should be on skill development.