New Graduate Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis Aims to Improve Options for Children with Autism

Beginning in January 2016, graduate students at the University of Missouri will be able to pursue a graduate certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis in the Department of Health Psychology in the School of Health Professions. The first opportunity locally for this kind of certification, current graduate students and practicing professionals with existing graduate degrees can complete the six courses and clinical practicum which prepare them for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) Examination.

In 2015, one in every 68 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, and parents and caregivers are seeking evidence-based interventions like those based on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). To meet this need, Dr. SungWoo Kahng, PhD, BCBA-D, associate professor of health psychology and behavior analyst at the MU Thompson Center, is heading a Mizzou collaboration to train behavior analysts and prepare them for certification.

ABA-based treatment is becoming the evidence-based standard for autism care. “The demand for this training and certification is increasing as research supports the efficacy of ABA interventions in helping children with autism,” said Dr. Kahng. “As these kinds of training programs become more common, children and families are getting access to better services in more areas.” ABA certification is preferred by insurance companies who pay for treatment, which means BCBAs are in higher demand than ever before.

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board provides rigorous academic and clinical experience standards for programs that prepare students to sit for the certification exam. The combination of coursework and clinical practicum at the MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders teach students the conceptual foundations of ABA and how these principles are applied to improve behavior. Students will get real-world experience in early intervention, social skills training and behavioral supports under the supervision of highly experienced board-certified ABA practitioners.

In addition to Dr. Kahng, program faculty include Timothy Lewis, PhD, in the College of Education, Department of Special Education; Kelly Schieltz, PhD, BCBA-D, in the College of Education Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology and Casey Clay, PhD, BCBA in the School of Health Professions Department of Health Psychology. Kahng and his colleagues say the certificate program is only the first step. The School of Health Professions plans to roll out a master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis in the near future.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Miller, MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders.