All I really need to know… I learned as a Behavior Technician

By Emaley McCulloch

bSci21 Contributing Writer

I practiced as a Behavior Technician/ABA Therapist for the first 6 years of my career. A behavior technician has many jobs and roles, but they’re primarily responsible for carrying out behavior and treatment plans and usually have frequent and daily contact with individuals receiving behavioral interventions. Anyone who has been a Behavior Tech (or similar title) knows it takes a lot of energy, dedication, creativity, compassion and skill each day on the job. Our reward is not necessarily monetary but comes from the progress we see in those we serve and the hope we see in the family’s eyes. We, at times, become like “part of the family” because of the nature and intensity of the job at an individual’s home, school and community.

Many of the values and habits I learned in those formative years have sustained and influenced my work today as a behavior analyst and throughout my ABA journey of a parent of a child who receives ABA services.  Much of what I do and how I approach my work (and life in general, really) comes from what I learned as a Behavior Technician:

The best days leave you with sweat on your brow and a smile on your face.

If all else fails, do a preference assessment.

Behavior is communication. Listen.

Understanding and compassion are antidotes for impatience.

Take feedback gracefully. You’ll receive a lot of it.

Don’t forget the data. Data is King.

Less talk, more do.

Sandwich hard stuff between fun and easy stuff.

Always be prepared for the unexpected. You’ll get fewer bruises.

Parents/caregivers are (usually) right.

Music is a universal language.

Acknowledge and praise small achievements (in others and yourself).

Play can be productive…and it can also be hard work.

People will respond to you when they like you and can trust you (i.e. associate you with consistent positive reinforcement). This includes parents and colleagues.

To the world, you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world. – Dr. Seuss

Behavior Analysis is not just a therapy, it’s a way of life.

What are some things you’ve learned as a Behavior Technician?  Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!

Emaley McCulloch, M.Ed, BCBA co-founded Autism Training Solutions, LLC in  2008, and is currently the Vice President of Relias Institute at Relias Learning. Relias Learning is the premier provider of online health care training for Health and Human Services, Senior Care and Public Safety. Emaley is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and holds an MA in Special Education. She has served in the field of ABA for over 18 years and has provided and overseen services to individuals between the ages of 18 months to 24 years in homes, schools and clinical settings. For eight years she served as a consultant and supervisor at agencies based in Hawaii and Japan where she trained groups of professionals and parents. Emaley’s passion is elearning, staff training, dissemination of evidenced-based interventions, research, film and videography and using technology in the field of behavior analysis and special education.  You can contact her at

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  1. One thing that really struck me from your article is when you said that behavior is communication. I totally agree, every time we behave a way, it is to communicate something. I think that listing to someone’s behavior when providing behavior intervention therapist services is very important.

  2. Hi! I really enjoyed this article as I am a Psychology and Biology student who is graduating this fall. I usually work on campus, but with COVID-19, it switched things up and now I have to take classes from home and find a new job. I’m looking at an ABA Therapist position and am very curious as to what it’s like and if I should apply. Thank you for helping me understand better!

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