Coaches Corner: The Responsibility and Joy in Growing Access to Services through Fieldwork Supervision

Coaches Corner: The Responsibility and Joy in Growing Access to Services through Fieldwork Supervision

In the US, it is estimated that 1 in 54 individuals are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (CDC, 2021).  This increase in diagnoses places a great demand on service providers to enable access to applied behavior analytic treatment.  The issue here is that the rate of service demand does not match the supply of BCBAs.  The low supply of BCBAs creates extremely long waitlists for services, with some clients missing key windows to address severe skill deficits.  In NC alone, there is 1 BCBA per 120 children with autism.  Nationwide, there is one BCBA per 43 children with autism Over the last 11 years, job demand for BCBAs has grown by 4, 209% (BACB, 2020).  

To best serve individuals with autism, we must grow the field of behavior analysis.  Without individuals providing supervision to students, the field would not be able to continue to grow access to care.  Though the idea of training others may seem easy, it comes with great responsibility.  According to an article written by Sellers et al., “Supervisory practices not only impact supervisees and consumer directly but also have implications for the field of behavior analysis and for future BCBAs and consumers (2016).” 

The quote in the last paragraph indicates that the behaviors that a supervisor models for their supervisee will most likely be imitated.  The Behavior Analyst Certification Board developed a supervision curriculum, which is a 12-page document reviewing the responsibilities of a behavior analyst providing supervision to fieldwork students.  These include, but are certainly not limited to, developing the behavior-analytic, professional, and ethical repertoire of supervisees.  Therefore, the BCBA must always be acting in the utmost professional and ethical manners possible, while ensuring their own competency in behavior analysis.  If poor repertoires are modeled for the fieldwork student, they will imbed these behaviors into their own practice as a future BCBA.  

While these responsibilities may cause some stress for many, there are many things about supervising fieldwork students that brings joy to supervisors.  One of the most rewarding things about being a BCBA is watching a client develop a skill set that they have struggled with for quite some time.  An example may include being able to watch a client for the first time and being a witness to behavior analytic programming leading to a language burst for that child.  In the same light, BCBAs interested in supervising fieldwork students will begin to witness the joy of a student developing a program based on the behaviors you modeled for them. From there, that student is then able to impact the life of a child diagnosed with autism who may not have received services if it had not been for the efforts of others to grow the number of BCBAs available.   

The responsibility of supervising fieldwork students should not be taken lightly; it is one that can impact the lives of many people.  It is important that those providing supervision to students are active in the field through staying up to date with the latest literature. What was best practice 10 years ago is not best practice now and it is important for supervisors to be familiar with best practices so that they can best teach their students. Without  supervising fieldwork students, the field ABA cannot continue to grow to impact the lives of the clients all BCBAs feel called to serve.   



Behavior Analyst Certification Board (2020). US employment demand for behavior analysts: 2010-2018. Littleton, CO: Author.   

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2020). Data & Statistics on Autism Spectrum Disorder. Retrieved from: 

Sellers, T., Alai-Rosales, S., and MacDonald, R. (2016). Taking Full Responsibility: the Ethics of Supervision in Behavior Analytic Practice.