The U.S. is significantly lacking in applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapists for children with autism, according to a new study published online this month in Psychiatric Services. ABA, which uses behavioral learning principles to help children with autism increase positive behaviors, is especially important due to the increase in autism diagnoses over the past several years. An estimated 1 in 59 children in the United States lives with autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The study, authored by Rollins School of Public Health professors Yidan Xue Zhang, M.C., and Janet R. Cummings, Ph.D., relied on 2018 data from the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. After comparing the per capita supply of ABA providers in each state with a benchmark established using the board’s guidelines, Zhang and Cummings found that the per capita supply of ABA providers fell below the benchmark in 49 states.
The study also found that states with higher public education spending had more ABA providers per capita than states with lower spending. States with higher median household income also had more certified ABA providers per capita.
According to a report this month by Eureka Alert.org, the study is the first to explore the supply of ABA providers, and differences based on location and geography. The authors believe new workforce policies are needed to increase the amount of ABA providers so that young adults with autism have access to evidence-based interventions.