Serving rural communities in any human services field can have it’s challenges. Of course, some of the top difficulties include longer travel times for staff (compared to urban areas), mileage and travel expenses, sometimes lower financial resources for many clients (compared to more affluent families who may life in cities), fewer resources for clients to access, fewer providers, and sometimes difficulty getting a high enough caseload to justify the staff positions or, on the other hand, having too high of caseloads which make it difficult to manage with quality services.
In 2013, Mason, Perales, and Gallegos published an article titled, “Community-Based Development of Behavior Analysts.” The abstract of the article is as follows:
“In this paper, we address the shortage of behavior analysts serving rural communities and outline a model of service delivery for rural students with autism spectrum disorders. The model involves the use of pre-service behavior analysts to provide behavioral intervention to students with ASD in exchange for district-supported training and supervision experiences. Specific examples are provided from the state of Texas, but the conclusions are applicable to all of rural America.”
The authors identify the rising need for behavioral services in schools as the number of students being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder has risen, as well. The authors discuss the scarcity of BCBA’s (Board Certified Behavior Analysts) in the rural counties of Texas and state that there are many more who serve the metropolitan regions. The authors state that the numbers are similar in other states.
According to the government regulations involved in the IEP (individualized education program) process and the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which is a law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the nation), children should be provided with applied behavior analysis with the supervision of a BCBA if it will assist them in the classroom and in succeeding in school. However, due to the high cost, especially for rural schools, many schools are not implementing this.
Even when behavior analysts are involved with providing services to students, it is often the case that they do not have enough time to provide optimal intervention partially due to the distance between work locations (schools) that they serve and having to break up their time between many students and schools.
Mason, Perales, and Gallegos (2013) suggest that rural school districts attempt to develop their own behavior analysts by recruiting local individuals, such as a teacher or parent who may have interest in the field. Then, the school district could provide funding for tuition for distance education for BCBA coursework, could provide BCBA supervision by contracting this service, and provide field experience hours for the individual in the school district. Later, these new BCBA’s could supervise and train new generations of BCBA’s.
Although finding BCBA’s in rural communities can be difficult, it is, in my opinion, a great environment to work in. The area of utilizing behavior analysis in rural communities should continue to be explored and developed. If you have more information about this topic, please comment below or contact me. I would love to learn more.
Mason, L. L., Perales, J., & Gallegos, E. (2013). Community-based development of rural behavior analysts. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 32(3), 20-23. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/1443780797?accountid=166077
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