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MS in Applied Behavior Analysis: Concentration in Autism Spectrum Disorders

The Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) with a concentration in Autism Spectrum Disorders is a 57 credit, 7-semester program that fulfills both the coursework and supervision requirements necessary to pursue certification in ABA, as well as an intensive focus on educating and supporting individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). This program includes a carefully crafted sequence of courses, verified by the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI), interwoven with a supervised learning experience (100 hours of supervision during 2,000 supervised independent fieldwork hours over-seeing all required supervision activities). It further includes intensive coursework in topics related to ASD (additional 9 credits of coursework). 

The program is designed to prepare educators, special educators, clinicians, and practitioners to apply behavioral principles to instruction, treatment of problem behavior, and special learning and behavior challenges. The focus in Autism Spectrum Disorders is to help graduate students acquire comprehensive, evidence-based information to assist in developing effective educational programming for students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). 


The program schedule is offered 100% online (courses and supervision) or a combination of online and hybrid courses (offered in either ConcordEast Longmeadow, or Sturbridge, Massachusetts).

Curriculum & Schedules

Code Course Name Credit Hours
ABA501 The Science of ABA: Concepts and Principles 3

This course introduces the philosophical assumptions and dimensions of the science of applied behavior analysis, including determinism, empiricism, parsimony, selectionism, pragmatism, and lawfulness of behavior. Students define key terms related to applied behavior analysis, the scientific principles of behavior, and behavioral technologies. Students differentiate between environmental and mentalistic explanations of behavior, and between conceptual, experimental, and applied analyses of behavior.

For students taking this course as part of a special education program, or as an elective:

This course provides students with a basic understanding of the application of behavior analysis to a wide variety of human conditions and severely disabling conditions. Students will learn the history of ABA and be introduced to the use of behavioral principles to increase and decrease behavior. The science of ABA can provide a framework for assessing a variety of children and adolescents, for designing, implementing, and evaluating IEP’s, for maintaining children in general education settings, and for assuring generalization and maintenance. Examples of educational strategies relying on behavioral principles for effective implementation will be discussed including reinforcement procedures, token economy procedures, stimulus control procedures, such as modeling and other forms of prompting, self-management procedures, and augmentative and assistive technologies. The Autism Spectrum Disorders Certificate does not lead to endorsement from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

ABA502 Ethical Practice in Applied Behavior Analysis 3

The course provides n intensive, practical review of the ethical, legal, and professional issues in the field of applied behavior analysis. Core ethical Principles in the discipline of psychology, adopted by the Association for Behavior Analysis-International (ABAI) to guide professional practice in the specialty are introduced, with a focus on practical applications of these principles in educational settings where the discipline of applied behavior analysis is practiced. Using case studies interwoven with scientific literature from the field of applied behavior analysis, students demonstrate the ability to apply the Behavior Analyst Certification Board Professional and Ethical Compliance Code© in real-life educational contexts.

ABA603 Research Methods in ABA 3

This course focuses on the measurement of behavior and the analysis of intervention effect using single-subject experimental design. Procedures for collection and display of behavioral data are demonstrated, practiced, and examined for reliability, validity, efficiency, and relevance to a variety of settings, with a focus on educational environments. Individualized measurement procedures are developed and implemented using a variety of single-subject design formats, and the contribution of single-subject research design to education, clinical practice, and scientific inquiry is examined. Ethical considerations of experimental analysis are examined.

ABA604 Behavioral Assessment and On-Going Evaluation 3

The process of identifying behaviors targeted for change and the use of behavioral assessment techniques to identify and analyze behavior-environment relations, for the purpose of developing successful, functionally-based intervention strategies. Methodologies of descriptive assessment and functional analysis, applied to both challenging problem behaviors and academic learning situations. Use of many practical behaviorally-based assessment tools, including checklists and rating scales, structured observation tools, and curricular assessments.

ABA605 Interventions & Behavior Change Procedures 3

This course teaches students to implement behaviorally based strategies to establish, strengthen, and weaken target behaviors. Fundamental elements of behavior change are reviewed, with a focus on selecting evidence-based tactics that utilize basic principles of behavior (reinforcement, punishment, extinction, and stimulus control) and utilizing appropriate parameters and schedules of reinforcement and punishment. Various procedures combining fundamental behavior principles and tactic are reviewed, modeled, practiced, and demonstrated to mastery and fluency. Basic behavior analytic skills of measurement and analysis are practiced in the context of utilizing behavior change procedures.

ABA607 Pre-Supervision in ABA 0

Each student identifies and proposes a site (or sites) to complete the requirements for supervision in applied behavior analysis. Attendance at 2 seminars is required during the pre-practicum. The seminar is a competency-based course which is part of the Program in Applied Behavior Analysis fulfilling the requirement for BACB© Supervision. The seminar is designed to ensure the student understands the requirements of supervision and is placed in an appropriate setting.

ABA615 Seminar 1: Analysis of Verbal Behavior 2

An advanced seminar on the analysis of verbal behavior of speakers and listeners, and the motivating variables that affect them, as first described by B.F. Skinner in 1957. A behavioral explanation of verbal behavior, controlled by basic behavioral processes, is introduced. Basic concepts taught include: the differentiation between verbal and non-verbal behavior, the verbal operant as a unit of analysis, the verbal community, elementary verbal operants, extensions of elementary verbal operants, common variables of which verbal operants are a function, and the multiple control of complex verbal behavior. Practical applications of verbal behavior analysis to language training and remediation, both with foreign language learners and learning with language deficits are examined, planned and developed. Advanced concepts taught include: the emergence of derived stimulus relations in discrimination and language training, equivalence relations, stimulus equivalence and generalization, and an analysis of thinking and private events.

ABA616 Seminar 2: Functional Analysis: History, Methods and Applications 2

Functional analysis represents the most complete form of evidence-based assessment in ABA (Mayer et al, 2014). This course will review developments to functional analysis research, beginning with the historical underpinnings, examine and practice modifications to the standard functional analysis model to analyze variables for during the treatment of behavioral challenges, and summarize research in functional analysis. Students will conduct functional analyses in simulated and natural environments.

ABA617 Seminar 3: Personnel & Management in ABA 2

An examination of evidence-based systems for providing behavior-analytic personnel management, training, and supervision. The importance and purposes for effective supervision and the implications of ineffective supervision begin this course, followed by a step-by step process for promoting and maintaining competent performance by staff and supervisees. Components include: training staff and practitioners to competently implement assessment and intervention procedures, monitoring performance and the use of function-based assessment procedures to identify variable impacting staff performance, supporting staff to assure proficient work performance, strategies to improve staff performance and resolve performance problems, and evaluating the effectiveness of supervision and training procedures.

ABA618 Advanced Applied Behavior Analysis: Concepts & Principles 3

An advanced study of basic behavioral principles and concepts defining the scientific discipline and guiding the practice of applied behavior analysis. Topics include: respondent and operant conditioning and operant learning (with a focus on positive and negative reinforcement contingencies, automatic v. socially-mediated reinforcement contingencies, and operant extinction) conditioned reinforcement and punishment contingencies, schedules of reinforcement and the influence of schedule on behavior (with a focus on compound schedules of reinforcement), the concept of motivating operations, including unconditioned and conditioned establishing and abolishing operations, discriminative stimulus control, and rule-governed versus contingency-shaped behavior.

ABA622-626 Supervision I in ABA 5

This is an experiential learning opportunity designed to fulfill the requirement for a supervised independent fieldwork experience as defined by the Behavior Analyst Board (BACB©). During a supervised independent fieldwork experience, students complete 2000 hours of applied work in behavior analysis. Students are supervised at least twice per month for 5% of the total hours they spend in the supervised experience. The student’s primary focus during supervision is on learning and applying behavior analytic skills related to BACB© 5th Edition Task List (Behavior Analyst Certification Board, 2019). Activities conducted during this supervised learning experience adhere to the dimensions of applied behavior analysis identified by Baer, Wolf and Risley (1968) in the article Some Current Dimensions of Applied Behavior Analysis published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. The assigned supervisor directly observes the student’s performance and provides specific feedback related to the results of observation, work sample review, review of written work, and performance management.
Prerequisite: ABA 607

ABA630 Qualifying Comprehensive Examination 1 0

ABA 630 requires the student to take and pass, according to a pre-determined criterion, a qualifying comprehensive examination. The exam content is aligned with BACB® Task List, 5th edition (www.bacb.com).

ABA631 Qualifying Comprehensive Examination 2 0

ABA 631 requires the student to take and pass, according to a pre-determined criterion, a qualifying comprehensive examination. The exam content is aligned with BACB® Task List, 5th edition (www.bacb.com).

ABA632-636 Supervision II in ABA 5

This is an experiential learning opportunity designed to fulfill the requirement for a supervised independent fieldwork experience as defined by the Behavior Analyst Board (BACB©). During a supervised independent fieldwork experience, students complete 2000 hours of applied work in behavior analysis. Students are supervised at least twice per month for 5% of the total hours they spend in the supervised experience. The student’s primary focus during supervision is on learning and applying behavior analytic skills related to BACB© 5th Edition Task List (Behavior Analyst Certification Board, 2019). Activities conducted during this supervised learning experience adhere to the dimensions of applied behavior analysis identified by Baer, Wolf and Risley (1968) in the article Some Current Dimensions of Applied Behavior Analysis published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. The assigned supervisor directly observes the student’s performance and provides specific feedback related to the results of observation, work sample review, review of written work, and performance management.
Prerequisite: 5 credits of Supervision I in ABA (ABA 622 – ABA 626)

ABA639 Supervision III in ABA 3

This is an experiential learning opportunity designed to fulfill the requirement for a supervised independent fieldwork experience as defined by the Behavior Analyst Board (BACB©). During a supervised independent fieldwork experience, students complete 2000 hours of applied work in behavior analysis. Students are supervised at least twice per month for 5% of the total hours they spend in the supervised experience. The student’s primary focus during supervision is on learning and applying behavior analytic skills related to BACB© 5th Edition Task List (Behavior Analyst Certification Board, 2019). Activities conducted during this supervised learning experience adhere to the dimensions of applied behavior analysis identified by Baer, Wolf and Risley (1968) in the article Some Current Dimensions of Applied Behavior Analysis published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. The assigned supervisor directly observes the student’s performance and provides specific feedback related to the results of observation, work sample review, review of written work, and performance management.
Prerequisite: 5 credits of Supervision II in ABA (ABA 632 – ABA 636)

ABA640 Group Supervision I in ABA 3

This is an experiential learning opportunity designed to fulfill the requirement for a supervised independent fieldwork experience as defined by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board(BACB©), during a supervised independent fieldwork experience, students complete 2000 hours of applied work in behavior analysis. Students are supervised at least once every 2 weeks for 5% of the total hours they spend in the supervised experience. The student's primary focus during supervision is on learning and applying new behavior analytic skills related to the BACB© 4th Edition Task List (Behavior Analyst Certification Board 2010). Activities conducted during this supervised learning experience adhere to the dimensions of applied behavior analysis identified by Baer, Wold, and Risley (1968) in the article Some Current Dimensions of Applied Behavior Analysis published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. The assigned supervisor directly observes the student's performance and provides specific feedback related to the results of observation, work sample review, review of written work, and performance measurement.

ABA641 Supervision IV in ABA 3

This is an experiential learning opportunity designed to fulfill the requirement for a supervised independent fieldwork experience as defined by the Behavior Analyst Board (BACB©). During a supervised independent fieldwork experience, students complete 2000 hours of applied work in behavior analysis. Students are supervised at least twice per month for 5% of the total hours they spend in the supervised experience. The student’s primary focus during supervision is on learning and applying behavior analytic skills related to BACB© 5th Edition Task List (Behavior Analyst Certification Board, 2019). Activities conducted during this supervised learning experience adhere to the dimensions of applied behavior analysis identified by Baer, Wolf and Risley (1968) in the article Some Current Dimensions of Applied Behavior Analysis published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. The assigned supervisor directly observes the student’s performance and provides specific feedback related to the results of observation, work sample review, review of written work, and performance management.
Prerequisite: ABA 639

ABA642 Supervision V in ABA 3

This is an experiential learning opportunity designed to fulfill the requirement for a supervised independent fieldwork experience as defined by the Behavior Analyst Board (BACB©). During a supervised independent fieldwork experience, students complete 2000 hours of applied work in behavior analysis. Students are supervised at least twice per month for 5% of the total hours they spend in the supervised experience. The student’s primary focus during supervision is on learning and applying behavior analytic skills related to BACB© 5th Edition Task List (Behavior Analyst Certification Board, 2019). Activities conducted during this supervised learning experience adhere to the dimensions of applied behavior analysis identified by Baer, Wolf and Risley (1968) in the article Some Current Dimensions of Applied Behavior Analysis published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. The assigned supervisor directly observes the student’s performance and provides specific feedback related to the results of observation, work sample review, review of written work, and performance management.
Prerequisite: ABA 641

ABA643 Group Supervision II in ABA 2

This is a small group experiential learning opportunity designed to fulfill the requirement for a supervised independent fieldwork experience as defined by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB©). During a supervised independent fieldwork experience, students complete 2000 hours of applied work in behavior analysis. Students are supervised at least once every 2 weeks for 5% of the total hours they spend in the supervised experience. The student's primary focus during supervision is on learning and applying new behavior analytic skills related to the BACB© 4th Edition "Task List" (Behavior Analyst Certification Board, 2010). Activities conducted during this supervised learning experience adhere to the dimensions of applied behavior analysis identified by Baer, Wold, and Risley (1968) in the article Some Current Dimensions of Applied Behavior Analysis published in the journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. The assigned supervisor directly observes the student's performance and provides specific feedback related to the results of observation, work sample review, review of written work, and performance measurement.
Prerequisite: ABA 640

SPE546 Teaching Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders 3

This course focuses on students with autism and examines the variety of exceptionalities and special needs of these children. Each criteria listed in the DSM-V will be examined in addition to neurobiological, psychological, educational, social, and emotional factors. Students will be exposed to a range of specialized and individualized instructional strategies and supports for students with Autism, including development of social and emotional skills and strategies for successful inclusion.

SPE552 Advocacy, Collaboration and Problem Solving for Students with Autism 3

This course will explore the importance of communication and collaborative practices between all members of the education team as a means of problem-solving and advocating for students with Autism. Students will be exposed to research-based teaching practices, programming, social emotional development and supports, and cooperative practices in order to promote success for the student with Autism. Students will acquire tools to participate effectively in cross-disciplinary teams and to collaborate with families of students with autism and have the opportunity to reflect about collaborating with families when developing and implementing educational programs.

SPE556 Supporting Communication and Social Development for Students with Autism 3

This course will explore various research-based strategies for developing and increasing communicative outputs and socialization for students with Autism. Students will become familiar with the theoretical foundations of socialization and communication. Students will engage in techniques for developing social communication for students with Autism, including the use of augmentative communication, as well as assistive technology options, and social skills curriculums.