Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is widely regarded as one of the safest and most effective methods for treating children with autism. ABA methods allow children to achieve basic skills such as reading and conversing at an earlier age, and in some cases, more involved educational skills.
In the State of Mississippi, two percent, or more than 10,000 children, have been diagnosed with the disorder. The University of Southern Mississippi Department of Psychology is posed to change the landscape of services for autistic children and many others living with behavioral disorders through a master’s program in psychology with emphasis in ABA.
With the assistance of a gift from Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and his wife, Lynn, which was generously matched by the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation, Inc. of Jackson, Miss., the ABA graduate program at USM will now have an additional faculty member. This addition of a visiting assistant professor allows USM to double the number of students able to graduate with master’s degrees and who will be qualified and prepared to seek licensure. These graduates will begin contributing this critical need in Mississippi.
“These gifts have a profound impact on the academic and clinical programming at Southern Miss, but an even greater impact on the way we will be able to address the needs of treating children with autism across the state,” said Psychology Department Chair, Dr. Joe Olmi.
With a keen understanding every person with autism is unique, the newly established ABA program at Southern Miss is leading academic and clinical instruction to address the need for more qualified and knowledgeable Board Certified Behavior Analysts in the State.
The Hosemanns have long been advocates for increased support and resources for families with autistic children in Mississippi. Their work through academics, policy and non-profit services has helped lay the foundation for programs in higher education to train behavior analysts who will provide ABA treatment for autistic individuals.
“Assessment and treatment are incredibly insufficient in Mississippi,” said Lynn Hosemann. “Working with Dr. Olmi and Dr. Jim Moore, a clinical instructor, we quickly realized USM could take the lead with the Master of Science program because they already have the infrastructure and the passion,” added Secretary Hosemann.
While the Hosemanns acknowledge it will take time to educate, train and certify behavior analysts, they see the graduate program at Southern Miss as a vital piece in a larger comprehensive model operating in collaboration with other institutions and agencies in Mississippi.
“The ABA program at Southern Miss is at the nucleus of this much needed training and support for so many of our Mississippi children and their parents,” said Lynn Hosemann. “Our goal is in 3-5 years, each of these ABA Masters and Ph.D. candidates can oversee teams of therapists working in programs and schools throughout the State. These are dollars well spent.”
To learn more about the Department of Psychology or the master’s program with emphasis in ABA, please visit usm.edu/psychology.