Central Michigan University psychology professors are working to increase the number of professionals trained to serve those with autism spectrum disorders.
The professors, Carl Merle Johnson, Susan Bradley-Johnson, Michael Hixson, Mark Reilly and Katrina Rhymer, were awarded $500,000 from the state of Michigan to train students in applied behavior analysis, which focuses on improving social behaviors of individuals with autism using intervention practices to modify actions and teach new skills.
Johnson said there is a shortage in Michigan of qualified people to provide services to children diagnosed with autism.
“We have been planning undergraduate and graduate programs in behavior analysis over the last couple of years,” Johnson said in an email. “Over the summer, we found out about this grant opportunity and applied for it to facilitate the development of these trained programs.”
Training for the first group of students for the program will begin in January. Students can submit applications for the program to the psychology department later this semester.
Hixson said the grant money will be used in a variety of ways, including hiring additional assistance and to help students financially.
“One of the most important (ways) is to hire additional faculty to teach the necessary courses and provide supervision of students working with children diagnosed with autism,” Hixson said. “Grant money will also be used to help fund students through the program.”
The goal of those involved is to provide help to those affected with autism disorders.
“There are many families who have children with autism spectrum disorders that are not getting the services they need to help their children because of the shortage of qualified behavior analysts who provide the best treatment for these children,” Johnson said.
The one-year grant from the state of Michigan began Oct. 1 and will certify 25 undergraduate students as Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts and eight graduate students as Board Certified Behavior Analysts.
While the grant is part of a statewide effort to raise awareness for services for those with autism, CMU’s program will focus solely on serving those in central and northern Michigan.
“Applied behavior analysis may not decrease the number of cases of autism,” Bradley-Johnson said in a press release, “but it can certainly improve the quality of life for individuals with autism and their families.”