Northern Michigan University’s new Behavior Education Assessment and Research (BEAR) Center provides free behavior analytic assessment and therapeutic services for children with autism spectrum disorder, developmental disabilities and other behavioral concerns. On Friday, May 5, a dedication will be held from 3-3:30 p.m., followed by an open house to introduce the center’s services to families from 3:30-5 p.m. The facility is located in the NMU Services Building on Sugarloaf Avenue.
The BEAR Center addresses the regional shortage of related services and serves as a training site for NMU students pursuing a degree or certification in applied behavior analysis. NMU psychology professor Jacob Daar said there are only 11 individuals in the Upper Peninsula with Behavior Analyst Certification Board credentials to practice independently, and not all of them work with individuals with autism.
Applied behavior analysis (ABA) helps individuals improve their social, verbal, motor and reasoning skills. Its approaches are used to develop behavior support plans aimed at decreasing maladaptive behaviors such as tantrums, aggression and self-injury. ABA also promotes appropriate behaviors and self-help skills. Autism experts widely recognize ABA as the safest and most evidence-based therapeutic approach.
The goal of intervention is to architect a learning environment where the child is motivated to engage with the therapist and improve functional living skills. This is accomplished through structured activities, natural environment teaching, and positive and meaningful feedback. The BEAR Center includes a play area and therapy and consultation rooms.
Daar and instructor Jeremy Biesbrouck, both Board Certified Behavior Analysts, supervise the training of graduate and undergraduate students in the BEAR Center and in partnership with community service providers and schools. The center will conduct research in collaboration with other academic programs, including neuroscience, to improve treatments and outcomes for individuals with behavioral disabilities.
NMU offers a bachelor’s degree in psychology/behavior analysis and a master’s degree in applied behavior analysis. Master’s students who fulfill the specialized course requirements and more than a year of supervised clinical experience at NMU are eligible to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). According to a recent job analysis report, there is a high demand for BCBAs, with 118 percent growth in the field since 2012.
The BEAR Center can be reached at 227-2994 or BEAR@nmu.edu.