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To Meet Employment Demand, NLU Launches Applied Behavior Analysis Program Will prepare behavior analysts to help people on autism spectrum and with other conditions

Jennifer Klapatch Totsch, Ph.D., has joined NLU as director of the Applied Behavior Analysis program.

Have you considered a rewarding career working with children on the autism spectrum and people with various other conditions which can be helped with applied behavior analysis?

National Louis University is launching Master of Science (M.S.) and Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) programs in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to meet growing employment demand for credentialed behavior analysts. Students may enroll now for the program’s Fall 2017 start. 

The program emphasizes the science, theory and practice of behavior to prepare practitioners to work with individuals diagnosed with autism, special needs and more. Coursework and a practicum will focus on using behavior analytic strategies to teach clients critical skills in multiple settings, such as the home, school and community. The employment demand is fueled by behavior analysts’ success in helping children on the autism spectrum and with related conditions to learn language and academic skills, in addition to social and independence skills. According to the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, demand for behavior analyst positions more than doubled between 2012 and 2014, with growth in almost every state.

Jennifer Klapatch Totsch, Ph.D., BCBA-D, has joined NLU as program director and assistant professor. She had previously served as the Director of Applied Professional Practice at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

“Behavior analysts are in high demand because of the growing need for practitioners trained in ABA,” Klapatch Totsch said. “Many students get job offers from their practicum training site. Others may go on to open their own agencies providing in-home or clinical services to children on the autism spectrum. There’s also a demand to work with people over age 21 with intellectual disabilities, to teach them independent living and job skills.”

Through the classes and practicum, students will learn evidence-based practices for teaching skills and reducing problem behavior. Each ABA treatment can be designed with the individual client in mind, building off of that client’s strengths and teaching them necessary skills to live meaningful and fulfilling lives. One such approach is to become familiar with the practice of initiating work with an individual, such as a child on the autism spectrum, by doing a thorough assessment of the behaviors a child can already perform, such as make sounds, and what the child cannot yet do, such as form those sounds into words.

Behavior analysts break down each behavior into discrete sub-steps or pre-requisite skills, in order to provide attainable goals for each client, measuring progress along the way and building up to the instruction of more complex skills. For example, when teaching a child how to write letters, they identify sub-steps such as picking up the pencil, holding the pencil correctly, putting the pencil to paper and reproducing the lines and shapes used to form letters. When the child performs the steps competently, he or she is rewarded with positive reinforcement.

Students who have earned a bachelor’s degree may apply for the M.S. program, while those who already hold a master’s degree in Education, Counseling, Psychology, Social Work, Speech-Language Pathology, Rehabilitation Sciences, or other related fields may choose the Ed.S. to deepen their knowledge of behavior and integrate ABA into their professional practices. Ed.S. students may choose either a 27-semester hour Non-Practicum Track or a 38-semester hour Practicum Track.

Faculty are readying the programs for a Fall 2017 launch. All program applicants must meet NLU’s general admission requirements. For more information about NLU’s M.S. and Ed.S. in Applied Behavior Analysis programs, visit