How to Become an Applied Behavior Analyst in Minnesota

Nationally, there is a movement toward embracing state licensing for behavior analysts much the same way that psychologists and other therapists are licensed. While many states have already implemented licensing laws for applied behavioral analysts or are in the process of introducing or passing legislation aimed at establishing state licensure, Minnesota has not yet made the leap. As of 2016, there are no state laws specifically governing the practice of applied behavior analysis in Minnesota.

Most states with established or proposed licensing processes have modeled their regulations, at least to some degree, after the Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s (BACB) Model Act for Licensing/Regulating Beahavior Analysts, which establishes model qualifications for licensed behavior analysts, as well as licensed assistant behavior analysts and applied behavior analyst direct contact technicians.

The base qualification for licensure under the Model Act for full-authority behavior analysts able to practice without oversight is the Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA®) certification. The BACB also offers certification for doctorate-prepared ABAs (BCBA®-D), assistant behavior analysts (BCaBA®) and registered behavior technicians (RBT®).

The Minnesota Northland Association for Behavior Analysis (MNABA) is the state’s leading professional association, ABA advocacy group and proponent for ABA professional regulation. MNABA has stated its position that applied behavior analysts or anyone claiming to practice ABA in the state hold a credential from the BACB as recommended in the MNABA Standards of Practice for Applied Behavior Analysis in Minnesota published in 2012.

Though it is not a state-mandated legal requirement in Minnesota, the BCBA® and other BACB-issued credentials are the widely recognized and respected in the field of applied behavior analysis, and often a standard job requirement maintained by employers in the state.

Earning a Master’s Degree in Behavior Analysis with the Option to Earn BCBA® Certification

A master’s program in behavior analysis specifically, or a program in psychology or education with a focus in ABA, is the minimum educational requirement to enter the field of applied behavior analysis.

Although BCBA® certification itself is not a legal requirement to practice as an applied behavioral analyst in Minnesota, the basic education requirements for the credential are universally recognized as the standard for ABA practitioners.

Whether or not you choose to earn the BCBA®, your path to becoming a full-authority behavior analyst would involve earning a master’s degree at minimum in keeping with universally recognized professional standards.

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Earn a Master’s Degree or Higher in Applied Behavior Analysis

All master’s or doctoral programs in behavior analysis or related fields that hold accreditation from the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) meet the standards for BACB-issued credentials by including a BACB-Verified Course Sequence (VCS).

Programs accredited by agencies other than ABAI or those without a BACB pre-approved VCS may also meet the BACB’s requirements, provided they meet course content allocation requirements and receive approval from the BACB at the time of application.

The BACB approves both campus-based and online ABA degree and post-graduate certificate programs, thereby accommodating the needs of many types of students, including busy professionals who require a distance-based education.

Online accredited ABA programs allow students to complete all or some of the required coursework through interactive, web-based study, and many institutions help students land a practicum at a nearby location.

Schools that offer BACB-Verified Course Sequences (VCS) sometimes offer options for taking these courses outside a master’s program curriculum, either as a post-graduate certificate program, or as an independent course sequence. This allows BCBA® candidates that may already hold a graduate degree to complete the course content necessary to practice ABA and to sit for the BCBA® Exam.

If you choose to pursue the BCBA® or other BACB-issued credential, you would be required to complete a period of supervised professional experience and pass the BCBA® Exam. A sampling of ABA providers in Minnesota where you may complete the required course of training through independent fieldwork or a practicum include:

  • Autism Matters Inc., Rogers
  • Behavior Therapy Solutions of Minnesota, Woodbury
  • Behavioral Dimensions, St. Louis Park
  • Integrated Development Services, Inc. St. Paul
  • River Valley Behavioral Health and Wellness Center, Savage
  • The Lazarus Project, Plymouth
  • SKILLS – Autism Therapy and Parent Enrichment, Bloomington

If you are interested in pursuing the BCBA® certification, click here for more information on experience requirements and step-by-step instructions on how to prepare for the exam.

Minnesota’s Legacy of Support for Applied Behavior Analysis

Minnesota has a long history of support for applied behavior analysis.

St. Cloud University was one of the first programs to offer a BACB-verified course sequence, while Minnesota’s Department of Human Services was one of the earliest adopters of ABA therapy for people with complex disabilities, formally incorporating ABA into state services in the 1980s.

More recently, Minnesota school districts have begun creating professional positions for applied behavior analysts, while an autism insurance mandate was passed in 2013 that requires insurance providers to cover ABA therapy without any limits on age, cost, or frequency. The mandate covers about 750,000 Minnesota residents – or about 14 percent of the state population.

The mandate calls for state-regulated health plans to pay for autism treatment considered medically necessary for children up to the age of 18. It also includes co-pay relief for families covered under the TEFRA disabilities program and an early intervention program for children up the age of 18 who are in Minnesota’s medical assistance program.

The $12 million early intervention program provides access to behavior therapy, such as ABA, and includes training for providers in culturally appropriate ABA techniques.

Efforts to Meet the Demands of a Growing Number of Children and Adults with Autism

There’s plenty of evidence of Minnesota’s ongoing efforts to provide the most comprehensive services for children and adults with autism. For example, September 2016 marked the opening of the new 50,000-square-foot building for the Minnesota Autism Center (MAC) in Eagan, designed to provide room for an additional 150 students and 130 staff members. MAC offers educational services and therapeutic support for children, adolescents, and their families affected by autism spectrum disorders.

At the same time, the Autism Society of Minnesota announced that due to a growing need for mental health support for adults and adolescents with autism, its team of therapists had grown five-fold in just five years. According to Dr. Amy Carrison, “Mental health and autism, there’s a huge need for clinicians.”

These advances in autism care and services are not just beneficial but necessary, given the meteoric increase in autism diagnoses in recent years. In 2000, about 2.5 percent of children (ages 3-21) who received special education services in Minnesota had autism. By 2013-14, this rate had escalated to 13.15 percent.

Applied Behavior Analyst Providers in Minnesota

Minnesota is home to a wide array of ABA providers and applied behavioral analysts who are committed to providing the state’s children and adults with autism and other developmental disorders with the appropriate therapies needed to encourage their developmental growth and increase their quality of life.

Just a few examples of ABA providers in Minnesota include:

Fraser: Bloomington, Anoka, Eagan, Eden Prairie, Minneapolis

Fraser is the largest provider of autism services in Minnesota. It also provides services for mental health and other developmental disabilities for children and adults through healthcare, education, and housing. Fraser clinicians, including applied behavioral analysts, develop treatment plans for individuals with autism spectrum disorders that allow them to develop skills that can be used in many different settings.

Following the principles of ABA, Frasier behavioral interventions are incorporated into an individualized treatment plan. These services may be used for children, teens, and young adults, ages 2-21.

Alliant Behavioral Pediatrics: Burnsville (Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area)

Alliant Behavioral Pediatrics (ABP) specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of children, birth to age 6, who have autism or related disorders. The applied behavior analysts and other clinicians of ABP use ABA and Skinner’s analysis of Verbal Behavior treatment methods. These services can be provided in the home, school, or community.

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ABP also emphasizes prevention, early detection, and intervention.

Rochester Center for Autism, Rochester

The Rochester Center for Autism works with about 70 children with autism and their families. Services include center-based therapy, in-home therapy, family skills training, consultation services.

The Center believes that a center-based program, in conjunction with a strong home component, is the most successful way to run an ABA program. The in-home therapy program allows behavior analysts and other therapists to utilize methods of ABA to teach new skills to children in their home setting. In-home therapy provides the opportunity to generalize learned skills beyond classroom settings and in the home environment.

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