Skip to content
Home » ABA C.A.R.E.S.™ Staffing Blog » What’s in store for RBTs in 2026?

What’s in store for RBTs in 2026?

Assuming you clicked on this article out of curiosity about the future of RBTs and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), you’re in the right place. I invite you to keep an open mind as we delve into the upcoming changes and considerations for RBTs in 2026.

Being deeply immersed in the field, my aim is to share insights into the impending changes and offer suggestions for Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) in 2026, from my perspective. This journey goes beyond policies or politics; it’s about my personal experience as an RBT, my expertise in training RBTs, and the wealth of insights gathered from interviewing thousands of both RBTs and BCBAs within the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Pediatric Autism Care space.

I’ve posed a series of questions to aid in processing and cultivating well-rounded thoughts and suggestions regarding the upcoming changes. Feel free to retain aspects you find valuable, delve into points of disagreement, discard what doesn’t resonate, and, most importantly, contribute your comments, questions, and suggestions in the comments section. 

These questions are best analyzed outside of isolation, and I eagerly anticipate hearing your thoughts. I hope they spark diverse perspectives and drive insight, fostering a rich exchange of ideas within the community.

In comparison to other healthcare professionals, is the current 5% observation requirement for RBTs adequate and was it a missed opportunity to keep this the same?

The lack of changes in the observation requirement for RBTs has rightfully sparked intriguing conversations. Drawing from my experience in both the training and practical application of ABA principles, I find the idea of deepening the connection to natural environments to be crucial for providing opportunities for Behavioral Skills Training (BST). To answer, the big question – is the current 5% observation requirement cutting it? Perhaps, moving towards a 10-20% observation model could significantly enhance the effectiveness of interventions. Think about other entry-level healthcare early career professionals like CNAs, COTAs, or Paraprofessionals and their hands-on training. Can we learn a thing or two from them? Will the requirements changes of 2026 provide a solution or a barrier? Well, my dear reader, it depends on how we choose to make the most of these two years. Are we gearing up, strategizing, and preparing for the changes? Perhaps there are game-changers who want to lead by example and implement a few of the changes ahead of schedule. The road ahead is wide open, and it’s up to us to navigate it wisely.

Is treating the increase in training requirements of RBTs a roadblock and not an opportunity to send the message that the community does not wish to support RBTs?

As someone who has worn the hats, I’ve had a front-row seat to the challenges companies grapple with when it comes to RBT training and support. It’s disheartening to see training often treated as an expense rather than a crucial preventive measure, fostering treatment integrity, job satisfaction, and, most importantly, safety.

In my interviews with RBTs, I’ve heard alarming stories. Some have been told by HR not to question clinical decisions, even when no training is provided. Some companies, in an attempt to cut costs, adopt a hands-off approach to training, claiming safety training isn’t necessary for those providing compassionate care or delivering quality ABA for the patients they serve. This dangerous shift has led to a spike in RBTs leaving for being harmed, emotionally exhausted and feeling like the job they took to help others is doing more harm.

During interviews, RBTs have disclosed their companies skimp on training, creating an atmosphere where safety takes a backseat. The excuse? If you need safety training, you’re supposedly not providing compassionate care or quality ABA. This perspective is not just misguided; it’s downright irresponsible.

Let’s face it – in our line of work, we help individuals shape their behaviors, and this often involves replacing and shaping unhealthy and unsafe behaviors. This dangerous shift, driven by a misguided approach to budgeting, in the disguise of patient protection, compromises the safety and well-being of both RBTs and those receiving services.

So, when we talk about budgeting for priorities, let’s not forget the true investment lies in the ongoing education and safety of our frontline staff. It’s not just a commitment; it’s a responsibility we owe to those who dedicate themselves to the noble cause of shaping better lives.

Beyond educational tracks, how can conferences become platforms for camaraderie and recognition for RBTs?

Having been in the conference circuit for quite some time, I get it – RBT tracks are crucial, and I am happy to see more of them appearing. But let’s talk real talk here – bridging the gap between RBTs and the wider community is more than just extending an invitation. From my experiences interviewing candidates, it’s clear the majority do not know about the broader community unless they are in a master’s program to become a BCBA or someone explicitly extends a warm invite and highlights the benefits of attending.

What if we took the changes of the BACB and used them not just to deliver outstanding speakers on educational topics but also to amplify the power of togetherness? Imagine conferences becoming more than a learning space – a hub for camaraderie, a platform for well-deserved recognition of the impactful work RBTs do daily.

In my journey, I’ve witnessed the magical transformation that occurs when RBTs feel actively involved in the larger ABA community. It’s not merely about attending presentations; it’s about creating an environment where they feel seen, heard, valued, and downright needed. Let’s turn these new requirements into more than just tracks – let’s make them gatherings where RBTs truly find their place in the spotlight!

What impact does the elimination of the Competency Assessment (CA) requirement have on RBTs’ professional development?

The decision to kick the Competency Assessment (CA) requirement to the curb is a bold move, and at first, I was worried; but after taking time to process the changes and reflect, it aligns perfectly with my philosophy of empowering RBTs. From what I’ve seen, putting an RBT’s advancement solely in the hands of a BCBA can often feel like hitting a growth roadblock and builds a breeding ground for a strained supervisory relationship. This change? It’s like handing RBTs the keys to their professional development kingdom and giving BCBAs some time back to better manage their treatment analysis.

Now, let’s talk about empowerment. This shift doesn’t encourage just checking boxes; it’s about cultivating a sense of ownership over one’s professional growth journey. And you know what this can lead to? You guessed it, a boost in job satisfaction and the kind of long-term retention which I believe will lead to an improvement in overall care and better trust from those receiving services.

Could the focus on specialized skills be a potential solution to the staffing crisis in the ABA field?

Now, let me share what else I see as a treasure in the requirement chest here – diverse career pathways. Not everyone dreams of climbing the traditional career ladder to become a BCBA, and you know what? This is not just okay; it’s exceptional. This transformative change is the game-changer we’ve been waiting for, ensuring RBTs who are deeply passionate about their role can now embark on a journey of growth and skill expansion while staying true-blue RBTs.

What would it look like if an RBT was empowered to immerse themselves in specialized skills, such as mastering feeding aversion, becoming an expert in adult care, or devoting themselves to high-intensity behavior management? It’s not just professional development; it’s about personalized investment and pride in their work.

Imagine RBTs proudly displaying certificates that testify to their excellence in residential settings or their mastery in navigating the complexities of working with specific ASD levels or the like. How could this help differentiate the pay rate and assurance of professional experience? Is this possibly the first step as a golden gateway to solving a portion of the staffing crisis the field faces?

What impact does the requirement of 12 CEUs every two years have on both RBTs and employers?

Let’s dive into the dollars and cents – a crucial aspect for consideration of achievability for both employees and employers. As someone who has delved deep into studying turnover, I get it – the prospect of 12 CEUs for budding RBTs can seem like a mountain to climb. But let’s put it into perspective; we’re talking about 6 hours a year (which can be offered internally). This Is it. Six hours.

Now, consider it from a company’s viewpoint. You could fork out the cost for BCBAs to conduct one hour for a competency assessment, with limited oversight on fidelity or impact. Or, invest in a professional development stipend for RBTs, showcasing your commitment to their growth. Not only does this significantly increase the chances of retaining both RBTs and BCBAs (who are teetering on the edge of burnout with their plates full of training new staff), but it’s a strategic move that minimizes the company’s risks. To me, it’s a no-brainer – pay for the CEUs or bring better training in-house; the financial benefits far outweigh the cost of vacancy risks.

Another suggestion of redirecting funds would be instead of splurging on extravagant sign-on bonuses, shifting those funds not only addresses financial concerns but also contributes to the long-term sustainability of quality training and human capital. However, let’s not undermine the importance of recognizing their role in maintaining performance expectations and ensuring the continuous support and training of our invaluable RBTs. The financial considerations we make today lay the groundwork for a resilient and thriving ABA community tomorrow.

In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare and ABA services, technology plays a pivotal role in shaping the future. As we look at the changes for RBTs in 2026, exploring how technology can be leveraged to enhance training programs becomes paramount. This not only makes training more accessible but also cost-effective and engaging for RBTs.

Agencies can consider adopting digital solutions that cater to the increased demands for training. Whether it’s virtual training modules, interactive online platforms, or innovative applications, technology can offer a dynamic and efficient means of imparting knowledge. By embracing these digital tools, agencies can ensure RBTs receive the training they need without compromising accessibility or quality.

Beyond ticking boxes for inclusivity, how can companies create a workplace culture that values unique strengths and aspirations with the proposed changes as a nudge?

In my conversations with business owners, a recurring question surfaces – “How can we enhance our candidate value proposition and diversify our staff?” It’s a poignant query that aligns seamlessly with the changes we’re discussing. Imagine the impact if companies not only recognized the need for diversity but actively pursued it by embracing these shifts in a candidate value proposition.

This isn’t just about ticking boxes for inclusivity; it’s about shaping a workplace culture which values the unique strengths and aspirations of every individual. By covering associated costs, providing paid time off, and ensuring equal access to opportunities, companies can transform their image into one that supports and attracts a diverse talent pool.

So, here’s the challenge to business owners – envision a workplace environment where career growth isn’t confined to a single path but flourishes in myriad directions. By championing these changes, companies not only stand to diversify their staff but also elevate their status as employers of choice, attracting a richer, more varied array of talents and perspectives.

This isn’t merely about inclusion; it’s about fostering an environment where diverse career aspirations can thrive. Companies championing these changes could integrate such benefits into employee tuition reimbursement or advancement programs, opening doors for those who seek to elevate their career paths and cannot advance their career in a traditional college route.

Change is best navigated with open lines of communication, and this includes hearing the voices of the individuals directly affected. Encouraging agencies to establish a feedback mechanism becomes essential. RBTs should be given the opportunity to express their thoughts, concerns, and suggestions regarding the upcoming changes.

Incorporating feedback from RBTs is not just a gesture of inclusivity; it’s a strategic move which t can lead to more effective and well-rounded policies. Agencies who value the input of their frontline staff are better equipped to address challenges, refine training programs, and create an environment that fosters collaboration and continuous improvement.

How can the ABA community empower RBTs to grow their skills without following the traditional education route?

Contrary to a common belief, not every RBT aspires to become a BCBA – which is completely okay. In fact, RBTs possess a diverse array of qualities that can lead them down various successful paths. Their understanding of the therapy could lead to skills in navigating the intricacies of authorization, diving into the world of recruitment, mastering the art of scheduling, excelling in HR, or seamlessly handling billing responsibilities. The possibilities are expansive and diverse, tailored to individual strengths and passions.

Here’s the heart of the matter – we should empower RBTs to grow their skills without feeling compelled to follow the traditional education route, especially if it doesn’t align with their current circumstances. What would it look like if we wholeheartedly champion cross-training and advancement? It is possible to create an environment where every RBT not only expands their skill set but also propels their career along paths that resonate with their unique strengths and passions.

I’m eager to hear your thoughts in the comments. How do you envision these changes contributing to a more inclusive and diverse ABA community? How can we collectively create a landscape where the distinctive qualities of each RBT are not just recognized but celebrated and nurtured?”

In what ways can training programs impact advocacy efforts for better reimbursement rates?

As we delve into the changes set for RBTs in 2026, could we adopt a forward-looking strategy showing greater health benefits to insurance providers so they can see the tangible improvements that can be made both in pediatric autism care and well beyond? By retraining and training staff, we position ourselves to focus on fostering healthy behaviors and showcasing measurable improvements. Moreover, this ongoing effort bolsters the endeavors of individuals advocating for better reimbursement rates.

In the evolving landscape, the emphasis on training becomes a dual-pronged approach. It not only equips RBTs with the skills necessary to meet the revised requirements but also directs attention towards addressing broader health-related behaviors. By incorporating training programs that emphasize healthier lifestyle choices, medication adherence, hygiene practices, addictive behavior and we pave the way for ensuring the use of ABA principles will be widely approved and acknowledged.

This strategic training approach not only benefits individuals receiving ABA services but also lays a foundation for compelling data-driven advocacy. As staff members are trained to support clients in diverse health-focused areas, the collected data becomes a powerful tool to demonstrate the broader impact of ABA interventions.

In the comments section, share your thoughts on this approach to training in the context of 2026 RBT changes. How can strategic training initiatives contribute to not only meeting the new requirements but also fostering improvements in health-related behaviors? Your insights play a vital role in shaping a comprehensive strategy which aligns with the evolving landscape of ABA and advocacy efforts.

How can the ABA community create supportive environments for RBTs amidst concerns about increased costs?

Since 2018, my journey in the ABA community has been marked by a dedicated commitment to advocating for better support for RBTs. These individuals form the backbone of our profession, and their success is intrinsically linked to the prosperity of the entire field.

The upcoming changes in 2026 have sparked discussions around increased costs, prompting valid concerns that need collaborative attention. I appreciate the concerns raised by colleagues and friends while also recognizing the potential advantages associated with these changes.

However, I believe there’s an opportunity to improve and create supportive environments for RBTs, offering diverse pathways to harness their skills and passion, which could not only address challenges but also showcase the commitment businesses have to the practice and their RBTs.

As we delve into the changes for RBTs in 2026, understanding the timeline for implementation is crucial for agencies and RBTs to prepare effectively. Agencies are likely to provide detailed information on when and how the changes will be rolled out. This includes not only the start date but also any phased approaches or transition periods that may be in place to facilitate a smooth adaptation to the new requirements.

For RBTs, having a clear timeline enables better planning and readiness. Whether it’s allocating time for additional training, adjusting schedules, or anticipating changes in client interactions, a well-communicated timeline is instrumental in navigating the upcoming shifts in the ABA landscape.

How do state-specific employment laws pose challenges to the implementation of changes for RBTs in 2026?

It’s crucial for me to acknowledge the diverse landscape of employment laws that exist across states. The implementation of these changes may face unique challenges depending on regional regulations and policies.

Employment laws, including those related to the provision of training on non-clinical time, can vary significantly from state to state. Agencies, both large and small, must be attuned to these nuances to ensure compliance and fair treatment of their RBTs.

Some states may have specific guidelines regarding compensation for training hours, whereas others may permit or restrict the allocation of non-clinical time differently. Additionally, considerations around time taken from client hours for training purposes may be subject to state-specific rules.

The financial burden associated with these changes may vary depending on the state’s existing regulatory framework. RBTs facing prohibitive costs for testing and applying, as mentioned, may encounter additional challenges in regions with stringent licensing requirements.

Agencies, advocacy groups, and policymakers need to collaborate to address state-specific challenges, ensuring the benefits of the initiatives are accessible and equitable for RBTs across the nation.

Thank you, dear reader, for accompanying me on this exploration of the forthcoming changes for Registered Behavior Technicians in 2026. Your engagement, reflections, and perspectives add immeasurable value to the ongoing dialogue surrounding the future of ABA

In navigating the evolving landscape of ABA, it’s evident our collective engagement will be the driving force behind positive change. The journey ahead is dynamic, and as we embrace these changes, let’s remember the profound impact our shared commitment can have on the well-being of RBTs, the individuals they serve, and the broader ABA community. Together, we have the power to create an environment where diversity is celebrated, feedback is valued, and every voice contributes to a thriving and inclusive ABA community.

Additional resources here.

Questions or concerns? Book a 15-minute complimentary consultation.

© 2024 behavioraltalentconsulting.com