WVU Medicine Children’s receives grant to train and retain autism specialists

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – WVU Medicine Children’s Neurodevelopmental Center, Augusta Levy Learning Center and Bright Futures Learning Services have received a $100,000 grant to train and retain Board-Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) and increase access to Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation grant requires that all three autism treatment centers work collaboratively in order to train BCBAs over the next year. The grant money has been matched to the tune of $515,000 by all three parties and the goal is to train and retain 15 analysts.

This is according to Dr. Jodi Lindsey, a pediatric neurologist who is the director of WVU Children’s Neurodevelopmental Center.

“There’s a significant shortage in our state of trained and certified professionals able to provide this therapy, which is the gold standard evidence-based treatment, particularly in the management of autism,” Lindsey said. “We through, a combined effort of this grant, are going to provide the clinical oversight and training of these professionals with the hope to then retain them within our state to provide greater services to our patients and our families.”

Lindsey said the shortage is due to a mixture of factors including the ability of programs to provide training for these professionals. In addition, she said, there are not enough positions for BCBAs within West Virginia, which makes them leave the state to find work.

However, she said this grant will help them change these elements. WVU Medicine has been working hard in the past few years to advocate for better insurance coverage for this kind of therapy, which is opening the door to help recruit providers to remain within the state and provide those services Lindsey said.

“It has been a huge hole for our families and us as providers and the inability to provide this recommended therapy for our patients with autism,” she said. “We know, as I stated, the gold standard treatment for our patients with early intervention being the most effective. So the sooner that we’re able to start these services with these patients and families, the better prognosis that patient is going to have, the better developmental progression we’re going to see.”

She said it was particularly important to start intensive interventions using ABA starting at 2 up to 6 years of age. With this program, once the analysts are certified, they can supervise 10 behavioral positions underneath them, drastically improving the available services to treat autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

Lindsey said the goal is to make this a recurring grant they receive for the foreseeable future.

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