As of late 2016, Connecticut does not have a licensing process in place for applied behavior analysts, but the state is on the road to implementing a licensing laws with the recent introduction of SB1089 in 2014.
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The bill is based on the model legislation proposed by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB), a national non-profit that offers the gold standard certification for the burgeoning industry: Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA®), available to those that complete a master’s degree program that incorporates an acceptable ABA curriculum and practicum.
SB1089 is based on BACB’s Model Act and recognizes a BCBA® as meeting the educational and testing requirements for licensure as a behavioral analyst in Connecticut.
The first step in the process of establishing a licensing regime for a new medical profession Connecticut is to have the scope of practice recognized by the state Department of Public Health. The status is currently under review by the department and could be completed in early 2017.
Establishing ABA Licensing Laws in Connecticut
As of late 2016, however, no such certification is required to practice applied behavior analysis in Connecticut. However, the state does prohibit persons from misrepresenting themselves as certified behavioral analysts unless they do possess a BCBA®. Under state law, practitioners that do not hold a BCBA® are legally prohibited from describing themselves using the terms:
- Board certified behavior analyst
- Certified behavior analyst
- Board certified assistant behavior analyst
- Certified assistant behavior analysts
- The initials BCBA®
- Any other terms that would lead people to believe they are a certified behavior analyst
The state also recognizes the BCBA® as one option for qualification for purposes of insurance coverage and special education in public schools:
- PA 09-115 defines applied behavior analysis services for the purposes of allowing providers to seek insurance compensation for rendering services to patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and requires that such providers either have a BCBA® or are supervised by a BCBA® holder
- PA 10-175 allows Connecticut public schools to hire applied behavior analysts to provide special education services but similarly requires that they hold a BCBA®, have undergone BACB-approved coursework as part of their training, or are supervised by a BCBA® holder
Qualifying for BCBA® Certification for ABA Practice in Connecticut
BCBA® credentialing remains important to behavior analysts practicing in Connecticut even in the absence of current licensing laws that require it:
- Eliminates restrictions on advertising and offering services under variations of the ABA title
- Ensures eligibility for insurance billing
- Helps ensure employability
- Will satisfy state licensing requirements should SB1089 pass
The BCBA® recognizes three options for candidates applying for the certificate:
- An acceptable graduate degree from an accredited university, including coursework in behavior analysis, a defined period of supervised practical experience, and passing the BCBA® exam
- An acceptable graduate degree from an accredited university, a full-time faculty position teaching behavior analysis, and passing the BCBA® exam
- An acceptable doctoral degree conferred at least ten years ago, ten years of practical experience, and passing the BCBA® exam
Meeting Minimum Professional Standards with a Master’s Degree in Behavior Analysis
Even without licensing laws currently in place officially requiring behavior analysts to acquire a master’s degree in the field (or, alternatively, to earn an Educational Specialist [EdS] degree, as is available through some universities, with similar requirements), there are strong incentives to obtain an advanced degree in behavioral analysis.
Although the market is unregulated, there remains a strong cultural and competitive element in Connecticut that results in both employers and clients demanding advanced education and credentials from behavior analysts.
Accredited and BACB-approved distance learning graduate programs provide the best option available in terms of convenience and flexibility. An online master’s degree program can satisfy both employer and BCBA® certification requirements for behavior analysts. The flexibility of obtaining a degree online allows many students to fit their coursework in to their personal schedules. Less disruption in that schedule can make it faster and less costly than going through conventional programs.
Practicing Applied Behavior Analysis in Connecticut
Since there are no state licensing requirements, and no other regulatory prohibitions other than against using the professional title, there is nothing to stop anyone from hanging out their shingle in Connecticut to practice applied behavioral analysis. However, there is a strong community and many unstated standards of care that would make it very difficult for such a person to find a job or retain clients without an advanced degree and certification.
In the absence of an official state seal of approval for individuals entering the profession, employers have almost entirely adopted BCBA® certification as a requirement of employment.
At SEED and South Bay Community services, for example, all behavior analysts must have a BCBA® before applying. Other positions, such as one position advertised at the Wheeler Clinic in Plainview, require either a BCBA® or a master’s degree in behavior analysis and commensurate experience working in the field.
Many Connecticut behavior analysts work in the school system or with school age children in private settings. Behavior analysts working for school systems are typically employed conducting functional behavior analysis (FBA) assessments of students, and building behavioral intervention plans (BIPs) and participating in constructing Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for special needs students.
Analysts working for private employers may both perform contract work in schools or work with children at clinics or at home. They are responsible both for directly treating patients and for working with parents and other caregivers to help construct strategies for handling difficult behavioral problems themselves. They will also implement and monitor long-term behavioral intervention plans, which require coordination with caregivers, teachers, and other responsible parties. Common job tasks include evaluating and treating:
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Pervasive Developmental Disorders
- Learning Disorders
The patient population for behavior analysts working for private clinics includes both children and adults.
Additional Resources for ABAs in Connecticut
An important part of that community is the Connecticut Association for Behavior Analysis (CTABA), a non-profit organization advocating for the profession and for state-wide credentialing. Membership in the organization is free. CTABA provides updates on the status of licensing legislation in the state and offers a forum for practicing behavior analysts to have input on the process and to add their feedback and support.
The organization also provides consolidated job listings for behavior analysts in Connecticut. As with many other states, many of the positions listed are with institutions dealing with the influx of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) patients that have risen over the past decades. Examples include the SEED Autism Center in Westchester County and the South Bay Community Services.
Anyone hoping to practice applied behavioral analysis in Connecticut would be wise to keep on eye on the legislative progress of SB1089. Membership or communication with CTABA is the easiest way to track the legislation. Regardless of how soon formal licensure requirements are established, a master’s degree in behavioral analysis is a solid investment in establishing ABA job qualifications in Connecticut.