In 1991, the Delaware Department of Education reported just 152 public school students with autism, but by 2015 this number had grown to 1,660—a 992 percent increase in just 24 years.
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In recognizing the meteoric growth in autism diagnoses in Delaware and the need to deliver clear language regarding standards for qualified autism providers, Delaware’s Department of Health and Social Services enacted autism insurance legislation in 2012 (Senate Bill 22). Just a year later, it specified the healthcare and mental health professionals qualified to serve as autism services providers who could provide services eligible for reimbursement:
- State licensed professionals to include physicians, psychologists and their assistants, psychiatrists, speech language pathologists and SLP assistants, occupational therapists and OT aides, physical therapists and their assistants, mental health counselors, clinical social workers, and APRNS
- Nationally certified applied behavior analysts that hold the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA®) certification through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board and those working under their supervision, namely Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts (BCaBA®) and Registered Behavior Technicians (RBT®)
In addition to requiring health plans to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder for residents age 21 and younger, SB 22 clarified the services that must be covered, which include applied behavior analysis (ABA). Since then, a great deal of progress has been made in Delaware, and ABA has become a widely available service for Delaware’s children and adults.
How to Become an Applied Behavioral Analyst in Delaware
Unlike most states, which now license applied behavioral analysts (or are in the process of implementing legislation regarding their licensure), as of late 2016 Delaware does not license professionals that provide ABA services independent of an existing healthcare of mental healthcare professional license.
Even in the absence of licensing laws, Delaware’s insurance laws, which only allow certified ABA professionals to provide autism services eligible for reimbursement, have made the Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s (BACB) BCBA® credential the natural path to entering practice as an ABA in the state. Earning the BCBA® credential involves:
- Earning a master’s degree in an approved field
- Completing a period of supervised professional experience
- Passing a national examination
Lesser credentials are available for assistants (BCaBA® requires a bachelor’s degree) and technicians (RBT® requires a high school diploma), but the BCBA® is the credential that is appropriate for those interested in providing assessment and therapy without the need for supervision.
To be eligible for BCBA® certification, you must first earn a master’s degree or higher in behavior analysis, education, or psychology that meets BACB curriculum requirements.
Programs that include a BACB pre-approved course sequence as well as those that hold accreditation through the Association of Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) meet the board’s curriculum requirements. Programs without ABAI accreditation or that have not had their curriculum pre-approved may still meet the curriculum requirements, but will be subject to a syllabus evaluation.
Qualifying programs are offered as conventional campus-based programs and online programs. Online programs have become a popular choice for many students pursuing an ABA degree, particularly in states like Delaware, which currently has no BACB-approved master’s degree programs.
Online BACB-approved programs offer the same course of study as their campus-based counterparts, yet allow students to complete the didactic component of the program through distance-based study and satisfy practicum requirements at nearby facilities throughout Delaware.
(Alternately, candidates that hold an acceptable doctorate for at least ten years and have been actively working in the field for the past ten years minimum would also meet education qualifications for the BCBA®.)
During or after your master’s degree program, you must complete an approved practicum that satisfies BACB’s Experience Standards for certification.
If the college or university where you complete your master’s degree offers an approved practicum, it will be structured as either a standard practicum of 1,000 hours (with at least one week of supervision) or an intensive practicum of 750 hours (with at least one week of supervision).
If the master’s degree program does not include an approved practicum, or if you choose to complete the required experience in another setting, you must complete at least 1,500 hours of independent field experience (including at least two weeks of supervision).
Some of the ABA providers in Delaware where you may be able to complete your field experience include:
- Autism Delaware Clinical Services, Newark and Milton
- Brandywine Center for Autism, Wilmington
- CHIMES Delaware, Dover, Millsboro, and Newark
- Hybrid Learning Group, Newark
- Innovation Behavior Services, Dover
- Positive Reinforcement ABA Therapy, Inc., Hockessin
After successfully completing the required experience for certification, you must apply to and receive authorization from the BACB to take the BCBA® exam.
The BCBA® exam is administered by Pearson VUE. You must take the exam at one of the Pearson VUE testing centers located throughout the U.S. In Delaware, you may take the exam at one of the following exam centers:
Delaware’s Advances in Applied Behavior Therapy
Advances in applied behavioral therapy in Delaware are being driven not only by rising autism rates, but by the improvements the state has made to ensure that those with autism and other learning difficulties and brain injuries receive the most comprehensive care by only the most qualified professionals.
Insurance Coverage in Delaware for Children and Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Delaware has made significant strides in recent years to protect and provide care for those with autism and other behavioral disorders. Under SB 22, Delaware requires the following autism services to be covered by insurance providers offering plans in the state:
- Behavioral health treatment
- Pharmacy care
- Psychiatric/psychological care
- Therapeutic care
- Necessary equipment
ABA is subject to a maximum benefit of $36,000 per year, but is not subject to visit limits. The law limits coverage to individuals with autism that are under the age of 21.
The law also states that children with autism cannot be denied insurance coverage due to the diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder, even if the treatment is deemed nonrestorative or habilitative.
Under this law, behavioral health treatments include professional counseling, guidance services, or treatment programs—including applied behavior analysis—necessary for maintaining, restoring, or developing an individual’s functioning. This may include treatment or counseling with the purpose of improving social skills and function.
The law also states that only the following professionals are permitted to provide covered services, within their scope of practice:
- Licensed physicians, including psychiatrists
- Psychologists or their assistants
- Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA®s) and the behavioral technicians under their supervision
- Licensed professional counselors of mental health
- Advanced practice nurses
- Speech therapists or their aides
- Physical therapists or their assistants
- Occupational therapists or their aides
- Licensed clinical social workers
Delaware’s Efforts to Improve Autism Services
Delaware has more resources than ever for autism treatment and support, which benefits individuals with autism spectrum disorders and their families and opens the door for a wealth of professional opportunities for applied behavioral analysts.
In September 2016, Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed a bill (Senate Bill 93) that provides more resources for Delaware’s citizens with autism. The bill includes establishing an Interagency Committee on Autism and the Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism, both of which are designed to improve treatment and support services for those with autism.
The Interagency Committee uses evidence-based practices and programs and shares the information with public and private agencies that provide support and services for individuals with autism and their families.
The Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism, housed within the University of Delaware’s Center for Disabilities Studies, increases access to training and education for Delaware’s schools, medical professionals, businesses, and families.
Career Opportunities for Delaware’s Applied Behavior Analysts
Behavior analysts in Delaware serve as clinicians in a wide array of settings, including:
- Behavior medicine practices
- Mental health practices
- Nonprofit agencies
- Children’s services
Just some of the leading ABA practices in Delaware include:
The Brandywine Center for Autism, Wilmington and Milford
The Brandywine Center for Autism offers behavioral and educational services for children with autism. The ABA therapy services offered here serve children from two to adolescence. The applied behavior analysts of the Brandywine Center for Autism identify individual learning styles to pinpoint each child’s strength so they can reach their full potential.
The home- and center-based services and consultation services here are focused on:
- Increasing school-readiness
- Building life skills that promote independence
- Improving language, conversational, and communication skills
- Teaching play skills
Innovation Behavior Services, Dover
Innovation Behavior Services offers ABA therapy to children with autism, as well as parent training and consultation services. The applied behavior analysts of Innovation Behavior Services provide home-, school-, and community-based therapies designed to help improve:
- Communication skills
- Social skills
- Independent living skills
- Play skills
- Group interactions
The behavioral therapists here collaborate with other treatment providers, such as occupational, physical, and speech therapists and school personnel.