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September 19, 2012

New program tackles educational challenges of autism

The number of children with autism continues to rise with the latest data estimating that one in 88 children has an autism spectrum disorder—a 78 percent increase compared to a decade ago. In order to address the learning and behavior of those affected by autism, the Warner School, in collaboration with the Division of Neurodevelopmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at the Medical Center, offers a new program and specialization in applied behavior analysis.

The new program is a scientific, evidence-based intervention that uses modern behavioral learning theory to teach social, motor, reasoning, and verbal behaviors, offering solutions to the challenges faced in schools, homes, and treatment settings. 

“The increase in prevalence of autism and related disabilities has fueled the need for improved educational and treatment services”—Kathryn Douthit, associate professor at the Warner School

“The increase in prevalence of autism and related disabilities has fueled the need for improved educational and treatment services,” says Kathryn Douthit, associate professor and chair of counseling and human development at the Warner School. “At a time when employment opportunities for individuals with applied behavior analysis training are rising to meet these emerging needs, the New York State Department of Health, in its 1999 Clinical Practice Guidelines, has embraced applied behavior analysis as the treatment of choice for professionals working with children with autism in schools and clinical and home-based settings. We are very fortunate to be one of a handful of universities across state to offer this high-quality training in the field of applied behavior analysis.”

The six-course sequence is the second program nationwide to be approved by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board for meeting the new standards of education and experience needed to take the Board Certified Behavior Analyst Examination. The more rigorous requirements will take effect in 2015. The new program and specialization is also the only approved program in central and western New York. It prepares professionals in behavior analysis, increasing access to evidence-based approaches to intervention, which has been shown by research to be effective in working with children with autism and related disabilities.

The 18-credit program includes the principles of learning and behavior analysis, instructional methods and applications, assessment and treatment of challenging behavior, research methods, ethics and professional conduct, and staff training and performance management. Students may complete the course sequence either as a concentration in the master’s in human development program, with a specialization in developmental differences, or as a “stand alone” applied behavior analysis program. Graduates will be equipped to work in a variety of community, public and private, human service, and educational settings.

Dennis Mozingo, associate professor of pediatrics at the Medical Center, who directs the new program and specialization, says that having an applied behavior analysis training program in western New York will help fill the gap between community need and availability of thoroughly trained professionals who have validation of professional certification from an accredited certifying body.

“The program faculty, who all provide consulting services to a variety of community settings, including schools and treatment agencies, will bring years of experience in behavior analysis, serving children and adults with a variety of needs,” Mozingo says. “With the passage of autism insurance reform in New York State that expands health care coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders, thousands of families across the state will now have access to more options and quality care, with less financial burden that comes with the diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder of a loved one. Board certified behavior analysts are defined explicitly in the new law, and we are thrilled to be part of the preparation of professionals to serve individuals with autism and their families.”

For more information on the program, the certification processes, or examination requirements, contact Warner School Admissions at 275-3950 or Dennis Mozingo at 275-6611.

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