Kayleigh Norton, Applied Behavior Analysis therapist, reviews animals and colors with six-year-old Carl. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Sloan).

Individuals living in New York State who do not have a diagnosis of autism cannot easily access the expertise of a licensed behavior analyst (LBA) unless state lawmakers correct an error in the law.

Those who have disabilities other than autism cannot benefit from the most well-trained professionals to deliver crucial services in places where they are most needed. In 2014, New York State enacted a law to license behavior analysts in such a way that LBAs are only allowed to treat individuals who have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.

The professional practice of applied behavior analysis, long-standing for more than 50 years, has made countless improvements in the lives of individuals. Some of these improvements have been in areas including, but not limited to, educational applications and learning, behavioral challenges, substance abuse, brain injury, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, behavioral medicine, and Down syndrome. LBAs design, implement, and evaluate environmental changes to produce socially significant improvement in behavior.

Of the 30 states that have recognized the profession of behavior analysis through licensure, New York is the only state that restricts the scope of practice to individuals with a particular diagnosis. Behavior analysis is the only profession within the state that is defined by and restricted in its practice to individuals with a particular diagnosis. The current licensure law severely limits access to effective treatment for individuals without a diagnosis of autism.  

The restriction is also seriously impeding training opportunities for students of behavior analysis. Data suggest that prospective students of behavior analysis may choose to train in other states, or leave New York State when they graduate. Some supervisors of behavior analysis in NY report that they are discouraging young professionals interested in behavior analysis from working and studying in the state.

Many board certified behavior analysts report that they are leaving or choosing not to come to New York to work because of the practice limits. The number of new LBAs in New York is decreasing and at the current rate, will eventually lead to a shortage of well-trained professionals to serve the autism community.

We urge the New York State Legislature to end this discriminatory practice and pass bill S4967 sponsored by state Sen. James Skoufis and A6389 sponsored by state Assemb. Crystal Peoples-Stokes. Go to nysaba.org for more information.

Elizabeth Drago is a New York State Association for Behavior Analysis (NYSABA) representative at large and Sally Izquierdo is NYSABA’s Legislative Chairperson.

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