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Aug. 17, 2022

Small steps, big results: New practicum experience for ABA students

Students in the Michigan State University Master of Arts in Applied Behavior Analysis program will have a new practicum opportunity in the Lansing School District beginning this fall. The PACES Project will support Spartans in providing evidence-based applied behavior analysis practices to improve educational, social and emotional outcomes for young children. 

Directed by Assistant Professor Charis Lauren Wahman, the PACES Project is intended to work purposefully, incrementally and holistically to support students who have autism or behavioral concerns.  

In the practicum experience, a requirement for Spartans in the Master of Arts in Applied Behavior Analysis program, MSU students will conduct observations in general and special education early childhood classrooms, sit in individualized education plan meetings and collaborate with caregivers, teachers and school personnel to program effective ABA behavioral supports based on the unique needs of each student. The Spartans will then suggest small, but significant, steps that can be taken to assist the child.  

“A common criticism of the ABA field is that it is so focused on modifying what children can’t do—they may demonstrate difficulty playing appropriately with peers or transitioning activities,” she explained. “We want to be strengths-based. There are so many things these children do well that we could harness and use to teach in areas where children are still learning. For example, instead of saying a child is too emotional, perhaps we can tap into their strong empathy skills and teach them how to comfort their peers or how to welcome children into the classroom.”

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