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Upstate launches new degree program that will train behavior analysts to help people with autism and related disorders

Upstate launches new degree program that will train behavior analysts to help people with autism and related disorders

SYRACUSE, N.Y.-- The College of Health Professions at Upstate Medical University has launched a brand-new degree program that will train behavior analysts to help people with autism and related disorders.

The Behavior Analysis Studies master’s program addresses a pressing health concern in New York state-autism. Graduates of the new, six-semester (24-month) program will be licensed health-care professionals able to provide therapeutic services for people with autism and related disorders. That work may include conducting assessments of problem behaviors or language deficits, developing treatments to increase pro-social behavior and caregiver training.

Behavior analysts can land jobs in medical settings, schools, community-based programs or private practice. After New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill in 2014 mandating insurance pay for applied behavior analysis therapy for autism, Upstate took a look at how many analysts were working in the state and found the vast majority were in the New York City area, said Program Director Henry Roane, PhD. This new course of study should help fill the gap for trained professionals in Upstate New York, Roane said.

“We’re ecstatic about it,” he said. “It’s something that’s going to be really good for children and families in New York state. It will be something that will retain people in Central New York. Often they would move out of the region but now we can keep them right here and they can help families in this region.”

Roane said the program at Upstate will be especially effective as students will work with a variety of departments including pediatrics and psychiatry.

“It’s a nice way to bring together a lot of different aspects and positive features that Upstate has in regard to developmental disabilities and autism,” he said.

Upstate is planning to enroll a small class this fall with admissions open until Aug. 21. After a lengthy approval process from the New York State Education Department that culminated with approval in late July, those involved with the program are eager to see it grow over the next several years.

“This is an extremely important degree program for Upstate to offer as there’s a huge need for skilled practitioners especially due to the prevalence of autism in New York state,” said College of Health Professions Dean Katherine Beissner, PT, PhD.

The new program will provide behavior analysts “with more appropriate and streamlined training,” to identify and schedule the best services possible for people with autism, said Krystal Ripa, director of special admissions programs.

“We always need to be better,” Ripa said. “We always need to be pushing ourselves to provide the best possible patient care that we can. This program will give us better access to the populations and will create better ways to develop how we can take care of these people and better educate this population.”

The fall, spring and summer semesters include didactic instruction and practicum experience or a thesis project (9 credits per semester). Didactic training includes coursework related to BAS-based treatments for autism, ethics, principles of learning and single-subject research experimentation, among others. The practicum experiences occur at clinical sites that provide BAS-based therapy or medical care for individuals with autism and foster collaboration with other healthcare professionals and students. Students complete a total of 1,500 contact hours in their practicum.

Affiliated Upstate faculty for the Behavior Analysis Studies MS program are: Chair Henry S. Roane, PhD; Nicole M. DeRosa, PsyD, LBA, BCBA-D; William E. Sullivan, PhD; Valdeep Saini, PhD, BCBA-D; Heather J. Kadey; MS, LBA, BCBA.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that an average of one in 68 children in the United States have an autism spectrum disorder. “Science shows that early detection of ASD, when followed by the right interventions, can lead to better outcomes for children affected by autism,” according to the New York State Department of Health.

To learn more about the program, or to apply, visit: www.upstate.edu/chp/programs/aba_ms/about.php