CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The leader of a state autism group has sued a state agency over a rule that forces certified behavior analysts to work under the supervision of a licensed psychologist -- a change that has allegedly devastated the analysts' ability to provide services to autistic children.
Jill Scarbro-McLaury, an analyst and chairwoman of the state chapter of Autism Speaks, alleged in a lawsuit filed Friday that members of the West Virginia Board of Examiners of Psychologists held an illegal meeting earlier this year to institute the change. She says the change essentially forces patients to pay for the services of both the analyst and the overseeing psychologist.
Certified behavior analysts generally help autistic children gain learning skills that will help them be independent later in life, according to the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies.
"A situation constituting an immediate threat to public safety has come to the attention of the West Virginia Board of Examiners of Psychologists," board members wrote when they changed the rule.
The board mandated the rule change in order to "make certain that Certified Behavior Analysts are under the regulation of the WV Board of Examiners of Psychologists," according to a petition the members filed with Secretary of State Natalie Tennant.
"There is a relatively small, but most likely soon to increase, group of individuals engaging in the practice of psychology who are not licensed and who do not meet the minimum education and training requirements for licensure," the petition states.
Fully certified behavior analysts must hold at least a master's degree from an accredited university in behavior analysis, natural science, education, engineering, medicine or a related field. Certified assistant behavior analysts may hold a bachelors degree, according to www.bacb.com.
Prospective analysts must also take hundreds of hours of additional training before they become eligible for certification, which is administered by the Behavioral Analyst Certification Board.