New Special Education Degree Focuses on Applied Behavior Analysis


Denise A. Soares, associate professor of special education at UM, coordinates the university’s new applied behavior analysis master’s program. Photo by Thomas Graning / Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Mississippi – Amid a growing demand for applied behavior analysis practitioners and educators in Mississippi, the University of Mississippi School of Education is launching a new master’s program to help fill the need.

“The development of the new curriculum is critical for the children of Mississippi,” said David Rock, dean of education at UM.

“This program will enable UM to prepare highly qualified professionals to meet the needs of children with autism and to plan treatment and early intervention at a young age. There are simply not enough licensed and board-certified behavior analysts in our state to meet the needs. “

The new program will help quickly integrate qualified professionals into schools, said Denise A. Soares, associate professor of special education and program coordinator.

“There is an ever-growing need for board-certified behavior analysts in Mississippi,” Soares said. “Our program is unique because it is located in the education department. We focus on teachers and behavior specialists who can learn the skills and implement the practices in the classroom.

Kayla crook

Kayla Crook, a board-certified behavior analyst with five years of clinical, academic and supervisory experience, is the program professor. Crook received his BA in Psychology from the University of Tennessee, an MA in Behavior Analysis Therapy from Southern Illinois University, and his PhD in Special Education with a focus in Applied Behavior Analysis from the University of Georgia.

“I am more than excited and proud to start this program here at Ole Miss,” said Crook. “I look forward to bringing ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) and Behavioral Principles not only to our teachers here in Mississippi, but also to teachers across the country.

“These courses will equip new and seasoned teachers with the skills to implement ABA practices and procedures in their classrooms, which will have a tremendous impact on students, both behaviorally and academically. “

The program is designed to prepare educators and human service professionals for careers in a variety of educational, clinical, community and business settings. Career opportunities include jobs as a behavior teacher, behavior specialist, ABA training coordinator, licensed behavior technician, and clinical supervisor.

The courses are based on the task list developed by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board Inc. The Association for Behavior Analysis International has verified the course requirements to be eligible for the Certified Behavior Analyst or Behavior Analyst exam. certified assistant.

“Our program is a blended program, with web-based and hybrid synchronous course delivery, with no residency requirement,” said Soares. “Join the new cohort, which begins in the spring of 2021. Applications are currently being accepted until November 1.”

Soares encourages all teachers to consider this master’s program.

“In just two years, students will have the chance to acquire essential skills and foundational knowledge to develop, implement and evaluate valuable techniques that help produce positive behavior change in people with special needs,” she declared. “Teachers will make the real difference.

The Parker Lifeshare Foundation in Jackson made an initial donation of $ 470,000 to support program development and the hiring of a board-certified faculty member.

Click here for more information on the ABA Special Education Masters program.


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