Autism Commission on Quality LogoAccreditation in healthcare is “paramount to ensuring safe, effective, and high-quality patient care” (LaPelusa & Bohlen, 2023).  Accreditation involves a comprehensive assessment of organizations, including a review of their policies, procedures, and overall performance, to verify their alignment with nationally recognized standards.  Accreditation also provides organizations with “a roadmap to identify and correct areas for improvement”( LaPelusa & Bohlen, September, 2023).

In 2022, CASP founded the Autism Commission on Quality (ACQ) to “establish and promote organizational standards that improve the quality, effectiveness, and outcomes of ABA services for individuals and families impacted by autism. ACQ’s vision is for all recipients of applied behavior analysis services to reach their full potential through access to organizations offering the highest level of care” (About – Autism Commission on Quality (ACQ)

ACQ is dedicated to improving the impact of ABA services for the autism community through both education and accreditation of ABA agencies.  While CAC currently holds accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) as well. Founded in 1966, CARF is a broader look at our organization through the lens of rehab facilities.  We are required as a Medicaid waiver provider to achieve CARF accreditation, but CARF does not offer ABA agency specific feedback while ACQ does.

The months long process of ACQ accreditation included submission of our policies, de-identified incident reports and other documents, and our manuals (HR, Employee, Parent).  The ACQ portal has nine different subject areas (Business Operations, Clinical Personnel, Clinical Operations, Patient Protections, Quality Assurance, Ethics, etc.) where a number of questions were posed to determine how our agency is structured and how policies are applied. This submission was followed by an interview with our leadership team to answer questions and clarify any policy, procedure, or application the ACQ committee had questions on.  Two of our Clinical Supervisors (BCBAs) were also interviewed by the ACQ team.  The Clinical Supervisors were asked to show via video a treatment protocol with a client.  Questions on the treatment protocol were asked of the Clinical Supervisor.  Families and staff were surveyed by ACQ on a variety of questions specific to either services or employment. Finally, a meeting was held to answer final questions from all of the submissions.

On November 20, 2023, CAC was notified that we had passed the process of assessment and were awarded a two-year accreditation with ACQ!  We also received constructive feedback on how to improve.

When we made the decision to deploy resources to seeking ACQ accreditation, it was the benchmarks/standards and feedback that we deemed most valuable.  The ACQ accreditation is an indicator that we are meeting the high standards of an accrediting body specific to our field, and the feedback and benchmarks are a guide to how we can continue to meet those high standards.  It is part of our mission statement that we provide ‘the highest quality treatment’ we possibly can.  We understand the need for efficient and effective care and continuing to ask how we can do better is how we get there.

We are thankful to each of you who took the time to provide feedback to ACQ.  We are also grateful to the ACQ team for taking the time to teach and guide CAC on how to do better.  The bottom line is that we believe accreditation is how we provide the best care we possibly can to the families who trust us with their children.  We will always continue to seek ways we can improve and accreditation is a solid standard from which to begin.

Vision (September 26, 2005): When a small group of parents first received the news that their children were diagnosed on the autism spectrum, they never dreamed they would open a center for evidence-based services. They were, like most parents, trying to figure out what the diagnosis meant and what to do the next moment. When they came together with a common goal, however, the result was the first applied behavior analysis (ABA) center in Northeast Indiana: Children’s Autism Center (CAC).

The focus for the CAC founders was building a center for compassionate AND effective care. Their children were still developing communication skills, so it was important to the parents that the children were cared for in a kind, respectful, and patient manner; their children could not tell them otherwise so trust in the staff was huge.

Effectiveness was the other critical component for the founders. Days are slow but weeks are fast and every week that passed could either mean gains, stagnation, or losses in terms of learning for their children. The group pushed for gains and efficient use of time.

Since the incorporation of Children’s Autism Center in 2005, the focus of CAC has remained true to the founders- providing the highest quality of effective, compassionate care possible.

Ann Zelt, one of the founding board members, says:

“CAC came into being as there was a need in our community to provide effective medically proven compassionate treatment to children with autism as there were no other local alternatives. Excellence was the standard from the very beginning as the children and their families deserved such. The priority of helping the child and family improve their quality of life was a given. Furthermore, we felt strongly, as we still do, that all children regardless of ability to pay deserve such necessary treatment.”

As the organization was built, it was quickly apparent that every member of the CAC staff and Board of Directors is important to realizing the goals.

Over the years, we have found that retention of our staff ensures efficiency and effectiveness – as well as being a tremendous boost to our culture. We have talented and dedicated staff who have been with the organization ten years or more. Recruitment of new talented staff is a critical element as well. Fresh innovation comes from both new talent and actively seeking learning from the field of ABA and business.

Dani, our trainer for newly hired RBTs, is the first staff member who molds our team. Dani notes:

“As the RBT trainer, I believe it’s important to not only teach our new staff the skills to be an RBT, but also teach and model the importance of how to interact with the children we serve. In our training we have a hands on and interactive training and as their trainer I take every opportunity I can to teach them how to make learning fun and facilitate fun in our training environment!

We have an open-door policy in our training room and the RBTs and clients are encouraged to visit from time to time so we can model how much we care about our clients and invest in their success. I also believe the group concept of our training aids in learning and growth because we are able to discuss and share our experiences and grow together as practitioners and as a support system as we continue on our CAC journey.

At the end of training I always encourage the new staff to remember it’s important to use the skills you learned with the clients we serve but also model acceptance and understanding of autism in the community you are in, because if we do that together we can make the world a better place for any child or adult with autism, not just those in our care.”

The organization’s founding parents had lofty goals and visions of creating a supportive space for autistic individuals in our community. Almost twenty years later, this work is never done. We can always do better and be better. It is so inspiring that Children’s Autism Center’s Board of Directors and Staff are continually pushing forward and evaluating how the organization can further its impact on our community. It is an honor and privilege to serve our community with this team.

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