Scholarship recipients to help meet state demand for autism services

February 4, 2015

Joshua PlavnickTen students from across the state have received full scholarships for the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program at Michigan State University.

These scholarships will see recipients through courses in which they will learn how to design, implement and supervise behavior analytic programs for individuals with autism and related disabilities. At the end of their studies, and after completing 1,500 hours of independent fieldwork supervised by a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA), students will take the national Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) exam.

Joshua Plavnick, assistant professor of special education and director of the ABA program, says these scholarships come at a much-needed time for Michigan.

“There are approximately 16,000 in the state of Michigan with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and only about 265 board-certified behavior analysts,” he said. “For comparison, there are about 16,000 in Massachusetts with ASD, and roughly 1,300 behavior analysts.”

Recipients were required to be permanent Michigan residents and have a master’s degree in education, psychology or behavior analysis to apply.

“The application process was extremely competitive,” Plavnick said. “We looked at prior experience, letters of recommendation and more to identify the top candidates. It is our hope that the recipients of these scholarships will stay in Michigan and help address the shortage of behavior analysts in the state.”

Funding for the scholarships comes through a contract with the Michigan Department of Community Health. A portion of the funds went to the College of Education to support the training of behavior analysts. Additional funding was sent to the College of Human Medicine for the training of medical providers in the area of ASD.

Students began the program this semester and are slated to graduate at the end of fall semester 2015. Post-graduation, recipients could find jobs working in private clinics, schools or community organizations supporting individuals with ASD.

Learn more about MSU’s applied behavior analysis program.