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New Masters Program Expected to Benefit Those With Autism

A new Masters program being offered in Springfield is expected to benefit those with autism spectrum disorders and their families. KSMU’s Michele Skalicky has more…

Applied Behavioral Analysis is the preferred way to treat those with autism spectrum disorders. But Megan Weaver, acting dean of master’s programs at the School of Professional Psychology at the Forest Institute, says the number of healthcare providers in Southwest Missouri who offer the treatment is very low…

"If you look at the number of people with an autism spectrum disorder, and then you look at the number of board certified behavioral analysts in the Missouri, you automatically see this discrepency with the number of board certified behavior analysts being much lower than those who need those services, and this automatically leads you to the question of 'why? Why is this discrepency so great?' And then I think you can pretty quickly figure out that training in Missouri is pretty limited, specifically graduate training."

That’s why the Forest Institute decided to offer a Masters in Applied Behavioral Analysis. According to Weaver, Applied Behavioral Analysis is the design, implementation and evaluation of environmental modifications. It’s used to produce improvements in human behavior in socially significant situations.Weaver says they saw a need for the program not only in Southwest Missouri, but in the entire state…

"There's a website you can go to, the Behavior Analysts Certification Board, and they list all of the providers in Missouri, and you can do a search for just the Springfield area, and I think there are two or three board certified behavior analysts, which is kind of the higher level, and then a few more board certified assistant behavior analysts."

The Missouri legislature recently passed legislation that requires insurance companies to cover autism treatment. But Weaver says that didn’t influence the Forest Institute’s decision to offer the new Masters in Applied Behavioral Analysis. She calls it perfect timing and says the Masters program has been in the works for quite some time.She expects the new program to have a significant impact on families dealing with autism in Southwest Missouri because it should result in more providers of services.The new Masters program will be offered at the Forest Institute’s main campus in Springfield and at its St. Louis site beginning this fall. A certificate program for people with masters degrees in related fields will also be available at both locations.