EDMOND — More behavioral specialists to help tutor autistic children in public schools could be ready to provide services in the state in a couple years.
The University of Central Oklahoma is offering a degree program to prepare students to become nationally board certified behavior analysts who specialize in autism, a complex developmental disability that affects the ability to communicate and interact with others. The post-graduate degree program is for those who already have a master’s degree or are in a master’s degree program, said Mary Sweet-Darter, a UCO associate professor of psychology who leads the program. It takes about two years to complete the coursework, she said. Those completing the courses and 1,600 hours of internship are eligible to take a national test to become a board-certified behavioral analyst, she said. Twenty-three students are enrolled in the UCO program, "We don’t want these services to be limited to the medical field or private practice,” Sweet-Darter said. "We want to get these skills into the public schools.” "If you go right now into most public schools, you won’t see a one-on-one tutor with every small child with autism,” Sweet-Darter said. "You’ll see one teacher and one aide and they’re trying to teach several children with autism.”