There is a school of thought that says your therapists should have no experience when you hire them. They have no preconceived ideas and can be trained as you desire. What you don’t want is a therapist who may be experienced in a slightly different form of ABA, butting heads with your consultant. On the other hand if your consultant has therapists on other teams who are looking for work this may ideal as they are partly trained and familiar with your consultant’s work.
You do want one therapist with experience to act as a Lead Therapist. This individual will maintain the books, train new therapists and carry out additional tasks as directed by your consultant. Start by asking your consultant for recommendations. Follow up the references provided very carefully as this position is key to a smooth running team.
Keep in mind, the BC Autism Funds program requires that they be at least 19 years old and have a clear criminal record check. The applicant must go to the local RCMP detachment to request the criminal record check, which will cost $52 at present.
Where can I find them?
Here are some ideas where to find therapists:
- Autism Support Network Facebook Group
- FEAT classified board
- Support Worker Central
- University or College job websites
- Place ads in local papers
- Advertising on College boards
- Starbucks or community bulletin boards
- Recommendations from your consultant
- Referrals from other families. Yes, families do help each other. Remember what goes around, comes around.
Samples ads are provided on my Files page.
If you are not experienced interviewing people, start with the questions and information sheet provided on my Files page. Ask the candidate for a resume ahead of time. Some things are show stoppers. For example, if you live out in the country and the interviewee doesn’t have a car, end things right there. Don’t waste anyone’s time.
Have them fill out an application form. The information on this sheet may not be relevant, but it gives you a chance to assess their written communication skills. Try to have your child available for at least part of the interview. Take note if the person tries to initiate contact. You want someone with great energy and play skills. Learn to trust your gut feelings.
Don’t be blinded by your desire to hire someone and get the team going. It will pay dividends down the road if you hire only quality candidates. Ensure you are provided with references and check all of them out!
A conversation that you must have with your prospective hires
You must deal with the issue of employee vs self-employed contractor before you take on any new hires. Refer to my page Employee or Contractor? for more information. A starting point would be the Service Agreement on my Files page. Go through it, line by line and make sure that you both agree with the contents. You should both sign the agreement. Keep the original and give a copy to the therapist.
How many should I hire?
New teams should start with 4 to 8 therapists as you may lose one or two within the first month. A child will often start with 20 hours and work up to nearly 40 within a few months. The number of hours will be determined by your consultant. It is important that therapists have at least 3 shifts per week, if they are new, so that they gain experience quickly. This is a difficult balance to work out. You don’t want to be short of therapists, but you also need to offer them enough hours. Better to be overbooked, than lose therapy hours.
Your consultant, program supervisor or lead therapist will put together a training plan for your new therapists. There are also therapist workshops available through ABLE clinic and AutismBC.
How much should I pay them?
This is the mother of all questions. It’s a very sensitive topic among parents and I would advise you to tread lightly. Not all families have the ability to pay for a full on ABA program and the hourly wage is directly related to the amount of therapy their child will receive.
Having said that, I’m going to make some suggestions:
- Firstly start with a training wage, unless the therapist is experienced. I would suggest minimum wage until such time as they are able to run their own shifts (a minimum of 2 months if they are green).
- Keep in mind, the minimum wage in BC is $15.65 per hour.
- Once they are on their own, I would suggest a raise. Anywhere from $1 to $2 per hour extra depending on what the market will bear in your area.
- I would also schedule regular raises (6-12 month intervals) for your team if their performance is satisfactory. You want to have an incentive for them to stay.