The following article was published in the Fall 2013 edition of the publication, Behavioral Health News, which is devoted to providing evidence-based information, education, advocacy, and resources to individuals and families, treatment professionals, and providers of mental health services. The article details AHRC New York City’s commitment to increasing our clinical competencies in the provision of services to individuals with autism and others with challenging behaviors and their families.
Individuals on the autism spectrum have always received services from AHRC New York City, although many did not formally receive this diagnosis years ago. This group of individuals is without question exponentially increasing with referrals from families in great need of assistance growing enormously every year. AHRC currently serves several hundred school-age children in specialized programs for individuals on the spectrum that have been in operation for over a decade and are well respected in the educational community. AHRC New York City has made the commitment to increase our clinical competencies in the provision of services to individuals with autism and others with challenging behaviors and their families, particularly adolescents and adults for whom specialized services are sorely lacking.
Beginning in March of 2012, sixty AHRC staff members from the many AHRC New York City program departments spent three days in a TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication Handicapped Children) training session. The TEACCH approach is an evidence-based program for individuals of all ages and skill levels with autism spectrum disorders (and other challenging behaviors) developed and researched by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The three-day training was followed up with the creation of user groups so AHRC New York City staff were able to support one another – and other AHRC staff – in the implementation of these strategies. A cadre of twenty AHRC staff members were then sent to North Carolina for further training in the summer of 2012 and AHRC has utilized these trained staff to train additional staff in this very effective approach. The TEACCH folks from North Caroline will be coming to New York once again early in the fall of 2013 to further train AHRC staff members.
In addition to TEACCH which is a broad framework for building a successful setting in which individuals with autism can succeed, AHRC New York City has embarked on a partnership with the University of Texas to offer Board Certified Behavior Analyst certification to ten staff members. These ten staff have already completed two of the five courses required for obtaining certification. Not only is AHRC assisting in paying for these intensive online courses, but additionally, they are paying for the requisite hours of supervision by Board Certified Analysts. This has been possible through generous support from the AHRC New York City Foundation.
The four Ph.D. psychologists hired by AHRC to provide supervision are some of the best ABA practitioners in the tri-state area. They come from Rutgers University Douglas Center, the New York State Institute for Basic Research, and Long Island University. AHRC is proud to be supporting this group of staff as a cohort so that they have the benefit of working with one another as part of a learning community. We plan that once certified, this group will be able to supervise greater numbers of staff in becoming BCBA’s.
The TEACCH and BCBA training efforts will expand each year with the hope of providing a large number of staff with the skills and techniques necessary to support individuals on the spectrum in the most effective way and provide assistance to families struggling to help their loved ones.