In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families. In many states -- particularly those with large rural populations -- one problem is a shortage of behavior therapists.
North Carolina has a shortage of the highly-educated professionals that can develop and oversee the therapies, with just 327 board-certified behavioral analysts (BCBAs) in North Carolina, according to the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. BCBAs must have a masters-level education, undergo extensive training, and pass rigorous board exams to receive their certification. While the BCBAs create treatment plans, mostly registered technicians carry out the day-to-day work of implementing that plan for the child with autism. North Carolina has just 812 of these registered behavioral technicians.
The main barrier to recruitment has been because of North Carolina’s requirement that a psychologist oversees ABA therapies, a practice unique to North Carolina, said Lorri Unumb, Autism Speaks’ vice president for state government affairs.
Many BCBAs have undergone intensive training and find the oversight unnecessary and time consuming, Unumb said. It is also difficult to find psychologists who want to do that type of work.
Autism Speaks and other groups are pushing to have the state legislature remove the psychologist oversight, in hopes it will lead to more ABA providers.
“Until that issue gets fixed, you’re never going to have good access” to ABA therapies, Unumb said.