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Behavior Specialist Licensing Regulations
March 15, 2012

The Medical Licensing Board issued final regulations for the licensure of "Behavior Specialists."
These regulations became effective upon publication on March 2. The regulations were established in compliance with Pennsylvania Act 62 of 2008, known as the Autism Insurance Act. Details from the regulations are below.

  • Define a behavior specialist as "an individual who designs, implements or evaluates a behavior modification intervention component of a treatment plan, including those based on applied behavioral analysis, to produce socially significant improvement in human behavior or to prevent loss of attained skill or function, through skill acquisition and the reduction of problematic behavior."
  • Implements licensure as a behavior specialist, rather than certification.
  • Permits persons to become licensed as a behavior specialist, but does not prohibit any person not so licensed from providing Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) services.
  • Licensed professionals such as psychologists, social workers, clinical social workers, and clinical counselors currently providing ASD treatment pursuant to a treatment plan may continue to practice under their individual existing license.
  • The regulations are not intended to required dual licensure or otherwise impact the scope of practice of currently licensed professionals’ ability to qualify as a participating provider. 
  • The board has confirmed with the Department of Public Welfare that the regulations do not affect the ability of already licensed professionals to qualify as providers for purpose of reimbursement under the Medical Assistance Program.
  • Defines ASD by reference to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, rather than by the definition in Act 62.
  • Establishes criteria for licensure as a behavior specialist as a person of “good moral character.”
    • Holds a master’s degree from an approved accredited college or university including a major course of study in school, clinical, developmental or counseling psychology, special education, social work, speech or occupational therapy, professional counseling, behavioral analysis, nursing, or another related field.
    • Have at least one year of experience involving functional behavior assessments of individuals under 21 years of age, including the development and implementation of behavioral supports for treatment plans.
    • Has completed at least 1,000 hours of in-person clinical experience with individuals with behavioral challenges or at least 1,000 hours of experience in a field related to individuals with ASD.
    • Has completed a minimum of 90 hours of course work and evidence-based practices from an accredited college or university or training approved by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) or DPW’s Bureau of Autism Services (BAS) as follows:
      • 3 hours of professional ethics approved by the BAS
      • 18 hours of autism-specific coursework or training
      • 16 hours of assessments coursework or training
      • 16 hours of instructional strategies and best practices
      • 8 hours of crisis intervention
      • 8 hours of co-morbidity and medications
      • 5 hours of family collaboration
      • 16 hours of addressing specific skill deficits training

Course work may include online education and hours completed during a master's degree, post-master's certificate or higher program, BACB continuing education credits, or BAS-approved training with associated tests and corresponding course evaluations. The regulations also establish application fees, provides for biennial license renewal by application to the board, and establishes disciplinary action by the board consistent with the disciplinary requirements and procedures applicable to physicians.

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