Benedum Foundation awards $100,000 for Applied Behavior Analysis Workforce Development Initiative

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – In an effort to support the training and retention of Board-Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) and increase access to Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation has awarded $100,000 to coordinate training efforts among three autism treatment centers in West Virginia. Augusta Levy Learning Center, Bright Futures Learning Services, and the WVU Medicine Children’s Neurodevelopment Center will work collaboratively to provide supervision to graduate students seeking national certification. The three centers are contributing matching funds of $515,000. 
BCBAs are behavioral scientists who design and supervise ABA intervention and therapy programs. New guidance from The American Academy of Pediatrics states that, “Most evidence-based treatment models are based on principles of ABA.” ABA uses behavioral learning principles to help increase positive behaviors and social interactions and decrease problematic behaviors. It is the recommended treatment for children with autism and is supported by more than 30 years of research.
A December 2019 study from Emory University reports that the supply of certified ABA providers is insufficient to meet the needs of children with autism spectrum disorder in nearly every state. With approximately 6,190 West Virginia children on the autism spectrum, Mountaineer Autism Project estimates that less than 10 percent have access to a certified behavior analyst. 
The BCBA is a graduate-level certification in behavior analysis. To earn a BCBA certificate, candidates must earn an acceptable graduate degree from an accredited university; complete graduate coursework in behavior analysis; and successfully complete 1,500 hours of supervised practical experience to apply for the national BCBA examination. The ABA Workforce Development Initiative will streamline and coordinate supervised fieldwork for 15 candidates at the three locations. Students who train though the initiative will have a one-year commitment to work in state after obtaining their national certification.  
Grant Coordinator and Director of Bright Future Learning Services Jill Scarbro-McLaury said, “Training and retaining behavior analysts is a critical and missing tool in our state’s efforts to stop the ‘brain drain’ and to support all children with learning and behavior challenges, not just those with autism. The Benedum award is an exciting and important first step towards creating workforce development policies to address the state’s provider shortage.”
“WVU NDC’s ABA clinic is excited to be part of this collaborative statewide effort to train and retain West Virginia students in evidence-based autism treatment. For years, our clinic has worked to encourage trainees to specialize in this growing field, but lacked a statewide effort to retain these well-trained students. We are grateful to the Benedum Foundation for supporting this collaborative effort to expand critical work to increase and keep well-trained BCBA’s here at home,” Susannah Poe, Ed.D., B.C.B.A.-D., director of ABA services at the WVU Medicine Children’s Neurodevelopmental Center, said.
“Augusta Levy Learning Center is thrilled and honored to be a part of a statewide effort to train the next generation of competent and committed behavior analysts in our state. By retaining behavior analysts and expanding applied behavior analysis services, more children and adults in our state will have access to life-changing behavioral treatment. Through the support from the Benedum Foundation, our three centers can collaboratively train BCBA candidates while instilling the importance of being committed to excellence when serving others,” Angela Wood, executive director of the Augusta Levy Learning Center, said.
Investing in the training and retention of certified behavior analysts will stimulate new job creation for administrative and support staff who work directly with children. The Benedum initiative is projected to create 80 new jobs and provide evidence-based treatment to an additional 100 West Virginia children with autism by 2024.