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    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is a Behavior Specialist?

    Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder that affects the behavioral and physical health. Children and adolescents diagnosed with autism need intervention early on to help treat the disorder and with the right kinds of supports, individuals can make substantive progress. Early and intensive behavioral intervention has repeatedly been proven to be the most effective treatment. Given that, as part of Act 62 the insurance mandate for autism services, there is a provision on the licensure of behavior specialists.

    As defined in Act 62 a behavior specialist is:
    "Behavior specialist" means an individual who designs, implements, or evaluates a behavior modification intervention component of a treatment plan, including those based on applied behavioral analysis, to produce socially significant improvements in human behavior through skill acquisition and the reduction of problematic behavior.

    The goal of the licensure for Behavior Specialists is to effectively license and create networks of effective specialists who will be able to evaluate and implement treatment plans for children with autism. This can include some form of applied behavior analysis but the treatment standards must not limit the ability of qualified individuals to provide these services.

    What are the requirements for a Behavior Specialist?

    Act 62 then outlines the requirements needed for the licensure of Behavior Specialists:  

    • Has received a master's or higher degree from a board-approved accredited college or university in a related field of study;
    • Has completed relevant educational and training programs, including but not limited to professional ethics, autism specific trainings, assessments training, crisis intervention, and family collaboration;
    • Has at least one year of experience involving functional behavior assessments;
    • And has completed at least 1000 hours in direct clinical experience with individuals with behavior challenges or at least 1000 hours experience in a related field with individuals with autism spectrum disorders.

    The level of education and experience outlined in the regulations will allow for the establishment of diverse and effective networks to provide services for children with Autism. Any move to focus on only one aspect of behavior analysis could limit the network and hurt the effectiveness of treatment.

    I am a practicing Behavior Specialist in Pennsylvania and would like to apply for this licensure. How do I apply?

    The State Board of Medicine in conjunction with the Department of Public Welfare are developing regulations pertaining to the licensing of Behavior Specialists providing services for children and adolescents with autism. The regulations and qualifications for this licensure will be forthcoming. Additional information will be posted on the PA Autism Insurance Web site (www.PAAutismInsurance.org) as it becomes available.

    Why is no scope of practice defined in the proposed regulations for Behavior Specialists?

    Under Act 62, a Behavior Specialist and the need for licensure are defined, but there is no specific definition of what a Behavior Specialist can or cannot do in their practice. The intent of the legislation was to allow for the establishment of diverse and effective networks to provide services for children with Autism and not inappropriately limit the providers eligible to provide services.

    There are certifications such as those established by the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA’s) available to individuals who treat children with autism. Why was a field of study such as BCBA’s not chosen?

    The intention in Act 62 was not to limit autism providers to a specific field of study in the realm of autism treatment. BCBA certification is a very good certification, but it is vigorous, expensive and there are very few in the commonwealth at this time. According to a Department of Defense Report and Plan on Services to Military Dependent Children with Autism from July of 2007, there are only approximately 300 practicing BCBA’s in Pennsylvania, an insufficient number to treat the estimated one in 150 children diagnosed with autism.

    The provision in Act 62 on the licensure of behavior specialists was included to make sure that more than just BCBA’s are able to provide services to children with autism. The intent was to make sure that behavior specialists and autism service providers not currently licensed are meeting the guidelines in Act 62 on training and experience. Individuals such as BCBA’s and others from various fields of study will be able to be licensed as behavior specialists, but the goal was not to limit the licensure to one specific group of practicing providers, but rather create a core set of requirements.

    Where are the regulations in the Independent Regulatory Review (IRRC) Process?

    The regulations are currently in a first draft format and have not been submitted to the IRRC as proposed rulemaking yet. Once the regulations are sent as a proposed regulation to the IRRC there is a substantial public comment period, followed by a review from the IRRC. The Department of State and State Board of Medicine will then submit final regulations.

    When will Behavior Specialists be able to be licensed?

    The deadline established in Act 62 is one year from the effective date of regulations promulgated or three years from the effective date of the legislation (July 1, 2009).

    Will insurance companies accept behavior specialists as providers?

    Under Act 62 an insurer shall be required to contract with and to accept as a participating provider any autism service provider within its service area and to be enrolled in the Commonwealth's medical assistance program. This will include the soon to be licensed behavior specialists.