A new program offered through the Psychology Department is focusing on one of the most researched and effective treatments for people with autism spectrum disorder or other developmental and behavior issues.

“Applied Behavior Analysis uses learning techniques founded in behaviorism in psychology,” says Dr. Holly Hackett, chair of the department. “Such as positive reinforcement to teach skills to improve an individual’s quality of life.”

During the Fall 2019 semester, the department began offering the Introduction to Applied Behavior Analysis course. Taught by Kristy Parker, the director of the Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism, it offered students the opportunity to complete a practicum at the center.

Parker says 12 students participated in the practicum.

“The students directed ABA therapy with clients of all ages, targeting communication and socialization skills as well as providing behavioral support,” she says. “Five of the students remained employed with the Leffen Center, making the experience a success for both MSSU and Ozark Center.”

Completion of the Introductory ABA course and practicum will allow students to sit for the Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) national board certification exam, says Hackett. The department plans to eventually offer an ABA certificate that will give students the opportunity to obtain the bachelor’s level national board certification.

Hackett says grant funding will allow the department to renovate the former Child Development Center in Taylor Hall into an ABA clinic that will offer services to clients and allow students to obtain hands-on training on campus.