The summer issue (Volume 8, No. 3) of the journal for the Association for Science in Autism Treatment features an article from Dr. Thomas Zane, Professor of Education and Director of the Applied Behavior Analysis Online Program at The Van Loan School of Graduate and Professional Studies Institute for Behavioral Studies. The article, “Apophenia: One Explanation for the Adoption of Fad Treatments in Autism,” discusses the possibility that a variety of new Autism treatments may be related to apophenia, the identification of meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data.
We sat down with Dr. Zane to congratulate him on the professional achievement and to learn a little more about Behavioral Studies program.
Endicott College Blog: What does this accomplishment mean to you?
Dr. Thomas Zane: This newspaper is one of the premiere publications in the autism community. It disseminates excellent information to parents, teachers, and other professionals. I am very proud to regularly publish in it – I have had an article in every one over the past year and a half. I appreciate this opportunity to get the word out about different topics near and dear to my heart.
ECB: What topic is this specific article addressing?
DTZ: There are so many treatments in the field of autism that it is very difficult for parents to know which treatment(s) to try. I believe the key is to find the ‘effective’ treatments, the ones that have been thoroughly vetted through good quality scientific research. That is the ‘best’ way to discern the truth about anything, and that applies to autism treatment as well. Which treatments work? Which treatments work for different types of problems or concerns?
Unfortunately, too many people try treatments that have no empirical proof of effectiveness. And this tendency to not ask questions or be skeptical is what lead me to the topic of my article. If one remains skeptical, not jumping to conclusions, then one may be in a better position to judge the evidence that is available, and thus perhaps make more reasoned decisions about treatment.
ECB: How does this relate to the work you do at Endicott’s Van Loan School of Graduate and Professional Studies?
DTZ: Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is a significant neurobiological disability that now affects 1 in every 100 children (1 in every 70 boys). Persons with ASD are affected in three major life areas – language/communication; socialization; and behavior. At this time, ASD is not curable, although with the correct therapy, many persons with ASD can acquire important life and work skills.
Unfortunately, there are many treatments available for ASD for which there is no proof of effectiveness. However, there is one therapeutic approach that has been publicly identified as having empirical, scientific evidence of working. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a branch of psychology that employs scientific research, systematic instruction, and data collection to teach the language, social, and behavioral skills needed by persons with this disorder. The Institute of Behavioral Studies of the Van Loan School of Graduate and Professional Studies has developed several programs that provide professionals interested in working in the field of Autism Spectrum Disorder and other developmental disabilities with expert training in therapy techniques proven to be effective in working with these populations.
ECB: What degree and certification programs are available through the Institute of Behavioral Studies?
DTZ: The Institute offers several programs focusing on the acquisition of ABA techniques. First and foremost, the faculty offers a Master of Education (MED) degree in ABA/Autism. This unique program provides the student with intensive training in both critical information particular to ASD and the 5 required ABA courses that will lead to certification as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). This program is quite unique and is offered in a hybrid format, utilizing both distance learning and traditional classroom instruction. The BCBA certification is important in that it is becoming increasingly recognized as a certification emphasizing unique preparation in the field of ABA and, coupled with specialized training in ASD, will identify the program graduate as someone expertly trained to work with this population.
In addition, the Institute offers a Master of Education (MED) program that combines courses in regular education with the 5 required ABA courses for BCBA certification. Students have the choice to pursue this particular degree with or without teacher licensure. A similar MED exists in Moderate or Severe Special Education teacher training (with or without licensure). Lastly, also offered is simply the 5-course certification sequence in ABA leading to Board Certification. The Special Education teacher preparation program embedding the BCBA certification training is one of only two such programs in the United States.
All of the programs in the Institute for Behavioral Studies focus on the application of science and evidenced-based practice in the preparation of special education teachers and professionals interested in ASD. This specialized training is why the programs of the Institute are so unique and positioned to prepare professionals for working with these challenging populations.