In a report issued January 13, 2010, the Attorney General’s office recommended “as a first step toward full licensure through the Department of Public Health” that the Education Committee of the Connecticut Legislature support one of three options for licensure or certification of behavior analysts operating within Connecticut school districts. According to the AG’s Office recommendation, any one of the three options would apply to providers of behavior analysis for all students with special education needs, not just those with autism spectrum disorders. The three options are as follows:
(1) Licensure of behavior analysts through the Department of Public Health;
(2) certification and oversight through the Department of Education of behavior analysts and/or behavior analyst specialty certification for existing licensed school professionals; or
(3) statutorily require local boards of education to hire only behavior analysts who are certified by a national board such as the Behavior Analyst Certification Board or who, in their scope of professional practice, may engage in behavior analysis, such as school psychologists.
The AG’s Office report characterizes option 1 as providing “the greatest protection for schools and parents” by requiring state licensing, while option 2 provides “some state agency enforcement authority”, and option 3 establishes “minimum education credentials” and provides “significant discretionary responsibility to local boards of education”.
The report acknowledges that school psychologists and social workers “may include applied behavior analysis in their services” within their scope of practice, a notable departure from the original reports suggesting that in order to provides behavior analyst services, a professional was required to hold a certification from the Behavioral Analyst Certification Board (BACB) based in Florida. The report also acknowledges that there is no “rational basis for creating separate standards for those who provide applied behavior analysis depending on whether the child has autism spectrum disorder”. As noted in the report, the state should not require specific licensure or certification when the professional is working within the educational program of a child with autism, but fail to require the same certification when the child has a different diagnosis, or is not yet diagnosed.
The AG’s Office recommends that the Department of Education provide “additional certification or license requirements for those professionals who work in the schools so that they may be able to provide behavior analysis intervention in addition to their other professional services”. This suggests that the Department of Education will be called upon to develop a specific behavioral analysis certification or endorsement that could be obtained by teachers, psychologists, social workers, or speech and language pathologists to allow them to be qualified as behavior analysts within the school setting.
The report also states that any requirement for licensure or certification would require anywhere from 2 to 4 years to implement, given the need to develop the framework, infrastructure within the Department of Public Health or Education, and time for individuals to obtain the required education and credentials.
One option endorsed by the AG’s Office is acceptance of the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) certification by the BACB, which requires a minimum of a master’s degree, 225 contact hours of university graduate coursework in behavioral analysis and 1500 hours of supervised experience. This certification is already recognized, according to the report, in Florida, California, Texas, Pennsylvania, New York and Oklahoma, as well as within the Connecticut Department of Developmental Services Birth to Three program. The report estimates that it would take 2 years to get enough individuals certified through this program to meet the demand in Connecticut, where there are currently 130 such individuals practicing.
Interestingly, the proposed legislation attached to the report suggests that if the Commissioner of Education determines there are insufficient personnel in the state to provide the services of behavior analysis either through existing certification or licensure, the Commissioner may authorize individuals with a “bachelor’s degree in a related field” who have completed a minimum of nine credit hours of coursework from a course sequence approved by the BACB to perform the services in question.