Gift From Behavior University to Help Train Service Providers for Children With Autism

Behavior technicians in training work with children in the Arkansas Delta who have autism.
Russell Cothren

Behavior technicians in training work with children in the Arkansas Delta who have autism.

Service providers for children with autism spectrum disorder are few and far between. 

Peggy Schaefer-Whitby, associate professor of special education at the University of Arkansas, has been working in the Arkansas Delta to address the need for service providers in the area of applied behavior analysis, which is a scientific discipline based upon the science of learning and behavior. Applied behavior analysis therapy or interventions are used to address the core deficits of autism spectrum disorder. Applied behavior analysis has the strongest evidence base in autism treatment, she said.

"The goal of my work is to help people in the Delta to provide services to families and children with autism spectrum disorder as well as provide support to families who have children with ASD," she said. "I became interested in this area when I realized that we are not diagnosing children in the Delta with autism — especially young African-American children — that their parents were not accessing autism services, and that there were no behavior analysts or behavior technicians to provide services to these families — or the schools."

Schaefer-Whitby and others involved in the project identified three people in the area to become behavior analysts. These three candidates are now taking master's level coursework. In order to become behavior analysts, students must be supervised by a board certified behavior analyst for at least 1,500 hours.

"This supervision is very expensive and prohibitive for many," Schaefer-Whitby said. "As part of the project, I am providing this supervision."

However, the area still has a need for registered behavior technicians to help provide autism services.

To help meet that need, Behavior University has donated free online training for the project. Schaefer-Whitby said 10 paraprofessional candidates have been identified and are participating in the program. "Once they become certified, they will be highly qualified to work with children who have autism," she said.

Shannon Crozier, the director of Behavior University, said the school's mission is to create exceptional educational experiences in applied behavior analysis to promote the use of evidence-based practices. Crozier said the university is a digital learning company dedicated to pairing quality instruction with accessibility.

"Giving back is an important part of our mission at Behavior University," she said. "Online learning makes it possible to reach more widely across communities. We are delighted to be able to support Dr. Peggy Schaefer-Whitby in her work to bring services, skill-building opportunities, and support to families in the Delta."

Schaefer-Whitby said she's working closely with two preschools in the Delta that provide autism services to young children with autism spectrum disorder. "My hope is to help the providers learn how to teach children with ASD while I learn about providing services in rural areas," she said.


Peggy Whitby Schaefer-Whitby, associate professor
Department of Curriculum and Instruction

Shannon Magsam, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions


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