May 2014 was a victory for Maine’s children with autism, their families, and the professionals who treat them. The Maine Legislature voted overwhelmingly to expand benefits for children with autism age 5 through 10 under the state’s 2010 insurance law. The expanded benefits became effective January 1, 2015.
Today, Maine is one of a handful of states (including Vermont, Texas, and Louisiana, among others) to expand their original autism insurance reform laws. Maine’s law requires providers of autism services to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism. Autism treatment includes speech therapy, occupational and physical therapy, and applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy. ABA therapy is capped at $36,000 per year.
Comprehensive autism insurance legislation is vital for a state like Maine, which has witnessed steadily increasing numbers in recent years. In 2000, just 1.67 percent of Maine’s children who received special education services had autism. By 2013-14, this rate had swelled to 9.52 percent.
While many states already regulate and license applied behavior analysts (or are in the process of enacting legislation aimed at licensure), currently Maine does not. And although Maine’s recently enacted insurance reform does not include language that stipulates a legal requirement for ABAs to hold nationally recognized board certification, the insurance providers operating in the state have taken it upon themselves to require all ABA therapy providers to be board certified in keeping with national standards.
This means that just like in most of the rest of the country, becoming an applied behavior analyst in Maine starts with earning a relevant master’s or higher degree and BCBA® (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) certification through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board.
Earning a Master’s Degree and Board Certification in Applied Behavior Analysis
Entering the field of ABA and pursuing the Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s (BACB) Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA®) designation starts with earning a master’s degree or higher in behavior analysis, psychology or education that meets BACB’s Acceptable Degree Definitions AND one of the following:
- Complete a Verified Course Sequence (VCS) either as part of your master’s program or through courses offered independent of a graduate program. All master’s or doctoral degree programs that hold accreditation from the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) include a BCBA® pre-verified course sequence as part of the curriculum.Some schools also offer post-graduate VCS courses separate from graduate program curriculum specifically designed to meet the ABA course requirements necessary to qualify to take the BCBA® Exam.
- If your graduate program does not include a BACB pre-verified course sequence, confirm that it includes the proper course content allocation. Programs without a pre-verified course sequence would need to be evaluated by BACB when applying to sit for the BCBA® Exam to verify curriculum requirements were met.
Accredited online programs offer a beneficial addition to campus-based options, providing many students with access to a wider variety of ABA programs that better align with different potential career paths (whether in ABA specifically or in psychology or education with a focus in ABA) regardless of their geographical location.
To be eligible for BCBA® certification, you would need to satisfy BACB Experience Standards. Some institutions with ABA graduate degree programs offer practicum as part of the curriculum that meet these requirements (conventional practicum of 1,000 hours; or intensive practicum of 750 hours).
If you complete a program that doesn’t include a practicum, you must complete 1,500 hours of independent field experience.
Some of the ABA providers in Maine where you may be able to complete your independent field experience include:
- Applied Behavior Consultants, Inc., Portland
- Positive Reinforcement ABA Therapy Inc., York
- Social Significance, LLC, North Waterboro
- Woodfords Family Services, Westbrook
- Woodfords Family Services, Topsham
- Woodfords Family Services, Manchester
- Woodfords Family Services, Oakland
Once you’ve completed the BACB-approved practicum/field experience, you must apply to and receive authorization from the BACB to take the BCBA® national exam, administered by third-party exam provider Pearson VUE. Pearson VUE testing centers in Maine include:
Federal Grant Expands Beneficial Autism Services in Maine
Thanks to federal assistance through a program called the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program, Maine is receiving funds that will help cover the cost of training 45 teachers, educators, pediatricians, and other health professionals on autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders.
The grant was awarded to Maine Behavioral Healthcare, the University of New England and Maine Medical Center in 2016.
The $2.2 million LEND grant couldn’t come at a better time, according to Maine professionals and providers of autism services, including Jenna Mehner, the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Maine.
According to Mehner, Maine is about 10 years behind the rest of the nation when it comes to services for children on the autism spectrum. “I was horrified at the lack of services in Maine. There’s a huge waiting list for help, and many people go out of state for help.”
The director of developmental disorders at Maine Behavioral Healthcare, Dr. Matthew Siegel, said that the LEND grant will be used to produce autism leaders who will eventually grow programs in doctor’s offices, schools, and therapy settings.
Because autism patients need access to a wide variety of services, including applied behavior analysis therapy, the LEND grant will help create new programs. Siegel helped create an outpatient program at Maine Behavioral Healthcare, and within a year, the program was maxed out on patients. According to Siegel, they have plans to expand the program from 250 patients to about 1,000 over the next year.
Applied Behavior Analysts Support Maine’s Children and Adults with Developmental Disorders
Applied behavior analysts in Maine work in a variety of settings, including schools, nonprofit organizations, hospitals, and private practices, among others. Just a few of the ABA therapy providers serving Maine include:
Bridges, United Cerebral Palsy’s Early Childhood Education Program: Bangor
The Bridges program is designed for preschoolers and toddlers who may be in need of behavioral, developmental, motor, sensory, and social support therapy. The one-on-one support is provided by a variety of consultants, including BCBA®s.
The therapists of Bridges address student needs while engaging in age-appropriate activities, such as art, music and movement, circle time, snack, and table activities.
The BCBA®s work through the Specialized Rehabilitative and Community Support Services, to employ ABA therapy for children that need more intensive services.
Pathways is the largest provider of home-based behavioral health treatment services in Maine and the leader in evidence-based education and treatment services for children with autism spectrum disorders.
Pathway’s Rehabilitative and Community Supports (RCS) program utilizes ABA methods, while the Pathways school-based programs offer early intervention and behavioral health day treatment for children and adolescents who have been diagnosed with developmental disabilities and/or emotional and behavioral disorders.
Spring Harbor Hospital: Westbrook and South Portland
The Developmental Disorders program of Spring Harbor Hospital includes inpatient services at the hospital in Westbrook and the Center for Autism and Developmental Disorders (CADD) in South Portland.
CADD is the only hospital program in Maine where children with a developmental disorder can receive intensive treatment for aggression, impairment in functioning, self-injury, and mental health challenges.
The program is designed for children and young adults with developmental disorders (ages 5-21) who are unable to function outside of a hospital setting.