The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that the rate of autism is at an all-time high. Its latest report, released in March of 2023, shows the prevalence of autism is now at a staggering one in 36 children, a dramatic increase from one in 110 children reported in 2009. For The Behavior Exchange, those numbers are a call to action.
The Behavior Exchange is a long-time local expert in autism and ABA therapy, the gold standard treatment for autism in children as young as two. Over 20 years ago in Plano, the family-owned and operated provider began out of a passion for making behavior therapy more accessible to families impacted by autism in the North Texas area.
Today, they have four therapy centers, or "hives," where they help children learn essential life skills and reach their full potential through fun and specialized ABA therapy services that have earned them the prestigious three-year accreditation as a Behavioral Health Center of Excellence, or BHCOE.
ABA therapy, or Applied Behavior Analysis therapy, is a scientific data-based approach to helping children learn new skills, master existing skills, and reduce maladaptive behaviors. The focus is on learning foundational skills on which to build more complex skills. Through ABA, children learn a number of essential life skills, such as following instructions, language and communication, motor skills, and emotional self-management.
Tammy Cline-Soza, founder and CEO of The Behavior Exchange said ABA therapy focuses on understanding the principles of behavior, with the goal of producing positive outcomes.
Highly Individualized Care
ABA therapy at The Behavior Exchange is highly individualized for each child. Goals are tailored to a child’s specific needs and abilities, and extensive data is collected during each therapy session to ensure children are making progress.
Therapists typically work with children one-on-one and in small groups, helping them learn new skills and engage in social interactions during age-appropriate, fun activities, Cline-Soza said.
When Cline-Soza first began working as a behavior therapist, health insurance and Medicaid didn’t cover ABA services, so very few families could afford it.
“Initially, all services were private-pay, and only families with significant resources could afford the intensity of services their children needed, leaving a huge population of children unable to access the care they deserved,” she said.
To provide services to more children in the area, Cline-Soza started consulting with school districts, helping them develop programs for students with autism, and created intensive parent training programs for families in crisis. That experience inspired her to develop a highly personalized organization, and after many years, be able to help families regardless of income.
The Behavior Exchange was born from this passion to make high-quality, intensive behavior therapy more accessible. After health insurance providers began covering ABA therapy in 2010, The Behavior Exchange grew as more families were being served. Currently, The Behavior Exchange is in the credentialing process for Medicaid and will soon be able to serve families who have not had access to ABA therapy previously, which is an important milestone for the organization and community.
A Fun Space for Kids
One thing that makes The Behavior Exchange unique is that its centers are intentionally designed to be fun and safe spaces for kids.
"Years ago, the special education room in a school would have been at the end of the hall with all the broken desks and chairs," Cline-Soza said. "This has drastically improved over the last 20 years. North Texas now has some special education services that are exceptional. But it was those early days that inspired us to build our hives differently, to make them not only as good as what students experience in general education but even better. We've created colorful, playful environments where kids can develop a love of learning. It’s the ultimate kid space.”
With the opening of its newest location last September in Prosper, The Behavior Exchange has been able to help even more children and families reach their full potential. In total, the ABA therapy provider now operates in four in-center ABA therapy locations, one each in Plano, Frisco, and Prosper, as well as one in Boulder, Colorado.
Working at The Behavior Exchange
Cline-Soza said that as the rate of children with autism continues to increase, the need for behavior therapists in the community continues to grow as well.
“Behavior therapy has been my mission in life, and I want to encourage other young people to explore the many benefits of getting into a career where you truly help others,” she said.
In addition to the personally rewarding work that makes the world a better place, The Behavior Exchange offers therapists a full range of benefits, opportunities for growth within an accredited Behavioral Health Center of Excellence, and the ability to learn skills that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.
Board Certified Behavior Analysts, or BCBAs, make a competitive salary and have a strong career because they’re in high demand, Cline-Soza said. BCBAs oversee clients' ABA therapy treatment plans and progress, while Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) carry out day-to-day therapy services and collect data throughout each session.
“I see our business as such a bright light in the world," Cline-Soza said. "It gives me hope. We have a very committed and passionate staff who give 110 percent every day and are very effective. They’re doing it for the right reasons. Good things happen as a result of that.”
As summer approaches and children are out of school, the need for therapists at The Behavior Exchange increases to meet the demand for their popular Summer Camp. It's a 10-week program enabling kids with autism to have fun and continue to make progress on their goals even when school's out. Specialized summer-themed activities and curriculum are offered in their popular camp program.
The minimum requirements to become a Registered Behavior Technician at The Behavior Exchange include having a high school diploma, 40 hours of specialized training, passing a competency exam, and passing an exam with the credentialing board.
Once The Behavior Exchange is satisfied with a candidate’s progress, the RBT can work with clients directly and continue growing in their career. The Behavior Exchange offers tuition assistance, and tuition discounts at certain universities, and supervises the hours necessary to become a master’s level Board Certified Behavior Analyst.
“Some of our most tenured staff started as volunteers, moved their way up, and are now experts in the industry and directors of departments,” Cline-Soza said.
Staff members at The Behavior Exchange encourage teachers and college students who are home for the summer to apply for seasonal openings. Many RBTs are in college, have a bachelor’s degree, or are pursuing their master’s.
“Even if someone just comes to work here for the summer, the experience will serve them for the rest of their lives and may inspire them to pursue ABA therapy as a career," Cline-Soza said. "The skills they learn will help in so many ways, especially once they become parents."
Learn More and Apply
To learn more about The Behavior Exchange, visit behaviororexchange.com. To apply, click on careers to get started on a rewarding career with the autism expert in North Texas and Colorado.
The above story was produced by Mary Katherine Shapiro, a member of Community Impact's Storytelling team, with information solely provided by the local business as part of their "sponsored content" purchase through our advertising team. Our integrity promise to our readers is to clearly identify all CI Storytelling posts so they are separate from the content decided upon, researched, and written by our journalism department.