USM's autism therapy degree program

Hattiesburg, Miss. - In the fall of 2015, the University of Southern Miss launched the state's first autism therapy degree program.

The program itself is starting to catch a lot of people’s attention.

Director of Training, Dr. James Moore said, "We train students to use the principles of behavioral analysis to treat a variety of problem behaviors. It does so happen that autism is considered by the surgeon general and the Centers for Disease Control as one of the best practice approaches to treating a specialty language and behavioral problems with children with autism."

Graduate students who are in this program have a 48-hour curriculum. These students learn theoretical knowledge and gain training through on-site practical experience for five semesters.

Moore said "currently, there's about 40-50 of those certified individuals who will then go on and become licensed in our state. We may have up to 11,000 children in Mississippi just with autism. So 50 people can't possibly meet that need."

Moore said the program provides therapy to around 20 children and he receives about a dozen emails every day from concerned parents who are seeking professional help for their children.

Moore said “last year, under the leadership of Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, we finally passed on autism insurance legislation bill. And that bill, while it covers lots of potential treatments for autism, it specifically requires insurance companies to pay for ABA therapy. So now we're going to have an incredible demand."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that 1/68 kids in the United States has autism spectrum disorder. Dr. Moore believes that it will take a nation-wide effort to figure out the cause of autism and how to cure it.

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