In June of 1997, Dr. William Penn, Director, Bureau of Special Education (BSE), Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) convened a focus group in Harrisburg to review Pennsylvania's current strengths, needs, and resources in the area of autism. This group consisted of parent and advocacy organizations, higher education, medical, and state agency personnel, educators, and administrators from private and public schools. The focus group identified six (6) areas of development for PDE. The areas identified were: diagnosis, efficacy, service delivery models, training, and funding. Dr. Penn used this information to develop a training and technical assistance plan that included regional team training focusing on efficacy, summer institutes, teleconference series, and a credential program in applied behavior analysis.
ABA Credential Program
The Focus Group participants had indicated that PDE should address the need for a competency-based program for appropriately trained staff in applied behavior analysis (ABA). After extensive research and data review, it was decided to replicate the behavior analysis credentialing process used successfully in Florida since the early eighties. Gerald Shook, Ph.D., was contacted to provide assistance concerning the behavior analysis credential process and an agreement was reached with the Florida Department of Children and Families to use their credentialing examination.
A mock examination in ABA was conducted in November 1997 for use as an initial needs assessment. The results of the mock examination were used to assist with course design and to assess participant interest in the course. There were 125 persons in participation at the mock examination and completed the questionnaires concerning course delivery options.
Credential Process The credential process is made up of three components:
1. Successful completion of graduate coursework in applied behavior analysis;
2. Supervised practicum in ABA; and,
3. Successful completion of the examination.
There are two levels of the examination process: the associate behavior analyst and the credential behavior analyst. The associate behavior analyst requires a bachelor's degree with 90 hours of coursework with one school year or 12 months of full-time supervised experience. The credential behavior analyst requires a master's degree with 190 hours of graduate coursework with two school years or eighteen months of full-time supervised experience.
Four graduate credit courses in ABA were offered through Penn State's Division of Distance Learning and University Park Department of Special Education with Dr. Gerald Shook as lead instructor. The first course, ABA: Basic Principles, began in January 1998 and was offered through a distance learning model. Classes were down linked on Saturday from 9:00 a.m. until noon to the 70 participants at six (6) sites in PA with a facilitator at each site.
The second course was con- ducted in June 1998 on ABA: Basic Principles II by videoconference. The third course, Advanced Topics in ABA, was conducted onsite at the Pennsylvania State University in conjunction with the Summer Autism Institute in August 1998. The fourth course, Extended Applications of ABA, was held on Saturday from 9:00 a.m. until noon during the Fall '98 semester.
Dr. Shook conducted practicum twice per month, from noon to 2:00 p.m., after the completion of the classes. Case studies were presented by class participants and supervised by Dr. Shook.
At the conclusion of the first twelve-credit course sequence, Penn State University continued to offer the twelve credit course series through its distance learning and continuing education program. Course three of this series was scheduled on site at the Pennsylvania State University in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Autism Institute and National Conference in Au- gust 1999. …