How to Specialize in Autism without a BCBA Outside the US

A number of countries that did rely on BCBAs for treating people with autism will have to evaluate other viable options. With the prevalence and awareness of autism increasing substantially worldwide, many countries are not well prepared to serve this population.

People with autism vary significantly in how autism impacts them and the way they perceive the world, making it important to have qualified experts that truly understand autism to treat them. However, having qualified practitioners is a very common problem, especially across lower and middle-income countries throughout the world:

“The challenge of early detection and early intervention of ASD is exacerbated by limited expertise, including limited diagnostic and treatment resources in LMICs.” –American Psychological Associaton Study

Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) are one of the most widely recognized specialists that treat autism, but starting January 1 of 2023 the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) will no longer accept applications from individuals who live outside of the U.S. and Canada.

Those who earn the certification before January 1, 2023 will still receive their certification. However, this poses a challenge for individuals wanted to become Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) or who wanted to specialize in treating autism who reside in other countries.

Why the BCBA Is No Longer Offering Certification Outside U.S. and Canada

There are a number of reasons the BCBA has made the decision to no longer certify applicants outside the U.S. and Canada. To learn more about why the BCBA is no longer offering certification internationally you can see our previous blog here. This article will focus on viable alternatives for people who want to have a specialization in autism.

If Not BCBA, then What?

With the BACB refusing international applicants in the future, many aspiring professionals who serve individuals with autism are now asking:

“Which professional certification should I choose?”

Since the BCBA profession is almost solely focused on autism, another viable option to consider is becoming a Certified Autism Specialist (CAS). The Certified Autism Specialist™(CAS) is not directly comparable to a BCBA, as the credential does not make someone a therapist.

CAS training is meant to be complementary to a wide variety of trainings. It focuses on how to properly understand the range of people on the autism spectrum, how to effectively communicate with them, motivate them, and get the best outcomes possible through evidence-based practices based on the latest research.

Who Should get a CAS or an ACAS?

CAS training can help people from all different fields to work with people on the autism spectrum, including approaches that incorporate applied behavior analysis (ABA therapy) such as a BCBA, or other professionals such as occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, and even educators who teach special education. Each specialty has specialized content to ensure it is relevant for their specialty.

What is a Certified Autism Specialist?™

A CAS is a professional who receives specialist-level training in the field of autism. They are responsible for the support and/or services provided to an individual on the autism spectrum that directly relates to the professionals’ specific scope of practice. For those interested in a career in behavioral therapy, but reside outside of the U.S. or Canada, the CAS certification can help qualify the practitioner as a leader in autism.

The CAS credential requires 14 credit hours and passing an exam with 80% or more to be able to qualify.

Is There Training that Incorporates ABA Therapy?

An Advanced Certified Autism Specialist (ACAS) goes a step further than the CAS and incorporates aspects of ABA training into the training itself. While an ACAS is not meant to be used as a stand-alone credential to qualify someone to be an ABA therapist, it is a great supplement to other country-specific training to expand a therapist’s skill set and specialization to autism and introduce or reinforce the principles of ABA therapy.

The ACAS contains 21 credit hours of online training that combines both autism and ABA training.

Many countries that utilize BCBAs will no longer have new BCBAs. These countries will either have to develop their own ABA therapy programs to certify new therapists or go through the extensive process with the BACB in an effort to continue certification.

In countries that do not have any form of ABA training the ACAS can be used to train therapists and educators who work with people on the autism spectrum so that they can learn to incorporate these practices into their work.

CAS/ACAS vs. BCBA Certification

While the CAS and ACAS certifications are not the same as becoming a BCBA, they are viable options that offer professional advancement and leadership, especially if BCBA certification is not available in your country.

The CAS and ACAS certifications are both recognized internationally by many organizations (check with your organization to confirm) while BCBA certification will soon only be available in the U.S. and Canada. Becoming a BCBA in the U.S. is a very lengthy process that requires extensive dedication. While both the CAS/ACAS and BCBA certifications require a Master’s degree, becoming a CAS/ACAS is a simpler process that requires online training, which helps to avoid many of the challenges with training new BCBAs of having approved training spaces outside the U.S. or Canada.

CAS Requirements Include:

  • Master’s Degree: must be in special education, education, educational psychology, psychology, human development, early childhood education, speech/language pathology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, social work, or closely related field.
  • Two Years Experience
  • 14 CE hours
  • Autism Competency Exam
  • Registry Fee: $495

ACAS Requirements Include:

  • Must currently hold a Certified Autism Specialist credential (CAS/ACAS bundle available)
  • Completion of IBCCES Advanced ABA Focused Autism Training
  • Pass the IBCCES Advanced Certified Autism Specialist Exam
  • Registry fee: $875 (Includes CAS Certification Fee)

Why Specialization in Autism Matters

Professionals who serve individuals on the spectrum, but who won’t be able to become BCBA certified, might want to consider the benefits of becoming specialized in autism.

CAS and ACAS certification both provide professionals in ABA therapy with the opportunity to differentiate themselves as experts in autism, which is the fastest-growing developmental disorder.

Receiving specialist-level autism training is a great way to enhance professional reputation and credibility while increasing your opportunity for career advancement and increased earnings. Autism is complex and is, unfortunately, misunderstood by many. As a specialist, you are able to provide proper care and treatment when it comes to a disorder that is seeing more and more diagnoses every day.

Paula Perkins, in Texas, says, “This certification allows me to demonstrate my professional competence and skills, specifically in the field of autism. This is increasingly important at a time when standards of accountability mandate service providers be highly qualified.”

Undergoing the CAS certification equips professionals with the tools they need to be effective team members and implement best care practices in the home, center, school or community environments.

“CAS was instrumental in my acceptance into a specialty program with Texas Tech University. My professional education and work experience in bilingual speech-language pathology, sociolinguistics, social and behavioral sciences has enhanced my ability to work effectively as part of multi-disciplinary teams in medical and educational settings.” Comments Dr. Love Johnson after completing her CAS certification.

ACAS: A Step Further

The ACAS certification is for those who have already obtained their CAS certification and are looking for ongoing training in ABA therapy. All of the course content was developed under close guidance of Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) and other professionals with clinical ABA experience, so you can be guaranteed that you are learning from highly trained experts with extensive practical knowledge and experience.

International feedback of the ACAS certification has been encouraging and shows that the globally recognized programs are a great alternative to becoming a BCBA. A certificant in Istanbul, Turkey says, “I have truly adored my experience with the ABA training course, it reached all of my expectations that I had prior to it and I truly had an optimal learning experience. Every time I had any questions there was always someone there to answer it, ever so quickly and I find that is sometimes rare to find these days. I found it to be a very accessible course, I was worried when I first signed up because it is online and I do live out of the country of where this is based but it really reassured me how quickly my emails were replied.”

The school principal of the International School Wiesbaden in Frankfurt, Germany shares, “I have to say that we are all feeling so more confident in working with our Autistic, Aspergers and ADHD kids in school already. We are working with the same goals in mind and understand everything our therapist is urging us all to do! Some of the strategies that are great for all learners are also creeping into regular classroom interactions- the Natural Environment Training is particularly meaningful for us in our inclusion program. It’s been a valuable investment for our school!”

The CAS and ACAS certifications can be combined with ABA training and are highly beneficial for international markets looking to expand their reach in autism training and specialization by increasing the number of autism experts globally.

Getting Certified

The process of becoming a CAS and/or ACAS is rather simple, especially compared to the process of becoming a BCBA.

For both certification programs, there are six steps involved.

These include:

  1. Apply online
  2. Complete the online autism training program
  3. Take the certification exam
  4. Receive IBCCES verification
  5. Board approval
  6. Certification issued

The great thing about these online certifications is that they can be accessed from anywhere in the world with a stable internet connection and the courses can be completed at your own pace, allowing for deeper learning and comprehension of the concepts.

The accessibility of these programs ensures that professionals across the globe are able to pursue autism training and truly understand what it means to be a specialist and a leader in their field.

Want to become a CAS?

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Contact Us Today for More Information About Our Certification Options

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