As a behavior specialist, Sean Smith wants to deal with cases that no one else will handle – cases like the non-verbal child with autism who has been turned away from traditional classrooms or the child with ADHD who has not. never found a way to moderate his hyperactivity.
To ensure he is ready to achieve this goal, he became a member of the first batch of graduate students of the Masters in Applied Psychology program through Rider’s partnership with Bancroft, a leading regional nonprofit provider of programs and services for people with autism, intellectual and developmental disabilities and those in need of neurological rehabilitation. Just months after graduating in May, he will begin a doctoral program in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) at the Munroe Meyer Institute at the University of Nebraska’s elite medical center to further his expertise.
Rider’s partnership with Bancroft is one of 15 that provides tuition assistance for local organizations. Qualified Bancroft employees can earn their masters by taking courses on the Bancroft campus. The program also prepares them to take the national exam to become a certified behavior analyst.
âI actually withdrew from another masters program once I heard about this program. I thought it was almost too good to be true, âSmith said. “I worked during the day and implemented what I learned in class.”
The University of Nebraska Medical Center’s doctoral program was the first in the country to be incorporated into an Academic Center of Excellence on Developmental Disorders, a nationwide network of organizations dedicated to ensuring people with disabilities can participate fully to their communities. It also uses a specialized training model that combines didactic teaching with supervised research and clinical practice in tandem to better integrate classroom knowledge with practical application.
âABA is a growing field and there aren’t enough people with the skills and knowledge to make more dramatic changes in patients with difficult cases,â Smith said. “I know this doctoral program will help me reach that deeper level of analysis.”
ABA is a type of therapy that focuses on using the principles of learning and motivation to modify behavior. According to the American Psychological Association, ABA has been shown to be particularly useful in the treatment of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Smith has spent the past five years with Bancroft, which offers a range of services including special education, day and residential programs, vocational training and supported employment. Under the direction of a certified behavior analyst, Smith works with patients to identify problematic behaviors, find out why they engage in specific behaviors, and develop a personalized treatment plan to adjust the behaviors.
“A patient can engage in self-injurious behavior to get something they want, like an iPad. We teach them other ways to achieve the same goal, such as verbally asking for the item or using sign language.” , explains Smith.
Smith hopes to someday become a clinical director in a program that deals with problematic behavior and possibly teach at the university level.
âThe types of cases we are dealing with with ABA are among a population that desperately needs it,â he says. âI want to be able to provide the best possible clinical services so that I can contribute to change. I can see myself teaching for similar reasons one day in my career. By teaching I could help expand the field in general and guide the new generation of ABA Professionals. “