How to Become a Therapist & Work With Children With Autism

Becoming a therapist who works with autistic children can be a very satisfying and rewarding career choice. Often referred to as Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapists, these professionals obtain specific training to prepare them for working with autistic children. ABA therapists often work in educational institutions, but some work in other settings like health care facilities. ABA therapists can expect to earn an annual salary up to £26,036, as of January 2011, according to PayScale, Inc.

Obtain a bachelor's degree in psychology, child development or some other area of behavioural science. ABA therapists need to have a strong foundation in the behavioural sciences due to the research-oriented nature of their job. This is especially true of therapists in health care facilities where ongoing research and clinical studies are a regular part of the job. In any case, ABA therapists need to have a wide range of understanding of children's behavioural patterns and the ways in which they are typically handled.

Complete a master's degree in applied behavioural analysis. These programs typically emphasise research-based analysis and treatment. Schools offering ABA master's degree programs include the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, the University of South Florida, Auburn University, St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, California State University, Penn State University, Georgia State University and the University of North Texas. The typical ABA master's program will require 30 to 40 credit hours and require one to two years.

Pursue a postmaster's degree certificate in autism spectrum disorders. You need specialised training and education in working with autistic children. A postmaster's certificate will generally take about one extra semester to complete, provided you can take all the classes you need at the same time. Most schools will allow you to pursue the certificate program concurrently with your master's studies.

Obtain certification through the Behavioral Analyst Certification Board (BACB). The board offers two different levels of certification — one for assistants and one for behavioural analysts. To become certified, you must pass a certification exam and meet the minimum education requirements. You must complete at least 225 classroom hours of graduate level instruction. Of these, 15 hours must be in ethics, 45 hours in principles and concepts, 35 hours in behavioural assessment, 20 hours of intervention and treatment, 20 hours in measuring and interpreting data and 45 hours in systems support and procedures.

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About the Author

Jared Lewis is a professor of history, philosophy and the humanities. He has taught various courses in these fields since 2001. A former licensed financial adviser, he now works as a writer and has published numerous articles on education and business. He holds a bachelor's degree in history, a master's degree in theology and has completed doctoral work in American history.

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