The Department of Applied Behavioral Science provides students with the opportunity to supplement their general knowledge within the discipline by concentrating in a specialized area of study. Students select a concentration or option within a concentration from among those described below. Each concentration has its own required sequences of courses as there are typically prerequisites for enrolling in courses beyond the introductory level. Additional information about each concentration is provided with more specific details regarding the student interest areas, practicum process, career and graduate studies opportunities, and supporting faculty members.

Adults with Disabilities

Students interested in working with individuals with developmental disabilities in community settings may have an interest in this concentration. In this concentration, students are trained to support the development of supportive teaching programs in the community for people with developmental disabilities. Through the coursework, students are taught behavioral-analytic approaches for observing and defining behavior; increasing appropriate and decreasing inappropriate behavior; developing relationships, and legal and ethical issues. Students in this concentration generally support practicum work with Community Living Opportunities, a community-based residential service agency for adults with developmental disabilities.

Graduates of this concentration are excellent candidates for positions in residential treatment programs, community human service agencies, and vocational and pre-vocational training programs for people with disabilities. Many students also pursue graduate studies in applied behavioral analysis, special education, or psychology.

Students wishing to complete a senior practicum in Adults with Disabilities should meet with Professor Claudia Dozier.

Basic Research and Conceptual Foundations

Students interested in basic and applied research, and history and theory of applied behavior analysis may have an interest in this area. This concentration attracts students interested in careers for which research and conceptual skills are prerequisites (e.g., science, technology, data analysis) or graduate programs in the behavioral sciences such as behavior analysis, behavioral pharmacology, behavioral neuroscience. The concentration has two options: basic research or conceptual foundations.

Basic Research Option- Students pursuing the basic research option learn about behavioral processes and research methods, and acquire skills in the experimental analysis of behavior. Students pursuing this option are required to complete an introductory course in statistics.

Conceptual Foundations Option- Students pursuing the conceptual foundations option learn about the historical and conceptual foundations of behavior analysis and acquire skills in historical research and conceptual analysis.

Students interested in completing a senior practicum in the area of Basic Research and Conceptual Foundations should contact Professor Michael Amlung or Professor Jon Pinkston.

Child Life Specialty

Child Life Specialists are professionals who address the developmental impact of illness, injury, and major life transitions on children and families. These professionals improve patient and family care, child outcomes, and children and families’ ability to navigate the challenges of pediatric illness. This concentration was designed to prepare students for the Child Life Specialty Certification exam administered by the Association of Child Life Professionals. Required coursework for this concentration addresses foundational knowledge in behavioral science, child and adolescent development, and family systems, as well as specialized knowledge pertaining to children’s health promotion and professional issues. The program culminates in two semester-long practica that provide students with direct experiences working with Certified Child Life Specialists in hospital settings.

Students wishing to enroll for a practicum in the Child Life Specialty concentration (ABS 683) must request enrollment by attending one of two available practicum sign-up meetings held each semester at least one week prior to enrollment. These meetings will be announced on the departmental website and via email.  For more information about the Child Life Specialty concentration and the Child Life Specialty Practicum please contact Professor Ric Steele.

Community Health and Development

The Community Health and Development concentration in the Department of Applied Behavioral Science at the University of Kansas helps to prepare students interested in building healthy and well-functioning communities. Students and faculty in this concentration contribute to addressing a myriad of socially important problems and goals in communities (e.g., substance abuse, violence, education, child and youth development, independent living of people with disabilities, the well-being of older adults). The premise for social problem-solving supported by the faculty and students in this concentration is that problems don't occur or reside within individuals or groups, but rather in the environment in which individuals or groups behave and operate. Therefore, students in this department are trained to systematically examine community-level problems based on the principles and methods of applied behavioral science.

Through the coursework in the concentration, students are trained to analyze community-level problems and goals (e.g., violence, education, substance abuse) to support the appropriate development and implementation of community-level interventions. Students are also provided a service-learning experience in all of the concentration courses. The course sequence culminates in a two-semester practicum arranged with faculty members and representatives of community organizations or governmental agencies.

Graduates of this concentration are excellent candidates for positions in public service (e.g., AmeriCorps, Peace Corps) including community, health, and social service agencies. Graduates of this concentration also often pursue a career, following graduate study, in an appropriate field such as public health, public policy, law, rehabilitation, community development, urban planning, psychology, social welfare, public health, community health, community psychology, social work, urban planning, and medicine.

Conceptual Foundations Option- Students pursuing the conceptual foundations option learn about contemporary conceptual issues in behavior analysis, its history and philosophy, and its relations with the behavioral, social, and cognitive sciences in general.

Graduates of this concentration are excellent candidates to pursue careers with research and training centers, or graduate studies in basic and applied behavior analysis (e.g., pharmacology, neuroscience), health, and medicine.

Students having already met the concentration prerequisites (i.e., ABSC 150/151 and 310/311) are eligible for enrollment in practica. Students wishing to enroll for a fall practicum in the Community Health and Development concentration (ABSC 690/691) must request enrollment by attending a pre-practicum enrollment meeting held at least one week prior to the fall enrollment period. Students are required to complete the practicum online tutorial, the practicum pre-enrollment profile, and attend the practicum enrollment meeting with the instructors. The tutorial and the profile can generally be completed during the practicum enrollment meeting. Generally, students in the spring practica are those students completing their second semester of the practicum. Students needing to request enrollment in the spring practicum for their first semester of practicum should contact Dr. Watson-Thompson to discuss enrollment options and availability. For more information regarding practicum advising in this concentration, contact Professor Jomella Watson-Thompson.

Early Childhood Education

This concentration is for students interested in studying young children and understanding the conditions that promote their healthy development.  It includes courses in behavior analysis, child development, curriculum development, parenting, and others that address issues relating to young children.  The program culminates in practica that provide students with direct experiences in toddler or preschool classrooms for children with and without developmental disabilities.  Students completing this program will gain knowledge and experience in the areas of behavior analysis, child development, developmental disability, education, and intervention.  Careers:  This area is relevant for students interested in working with young children in home, educational, community-based, hospital, or other therapeutic settings. 

Students wishing to enroll for a practicum in the Early Childhood Education concentration (ABS 675, 676, 677, 678, 680) must request enrollment by attending one of two available practicum sign-up meetings held each semester at least one week prior to enrollment. The meetings are generally held in the Dole 4th floor atrium. Students enrolling in an Educare (ABSC 677/678) or Sunnyside (ABSC 675/676) practicum are required to work in the classroom from 7:30 – 11:30 a.m. or 1:45 – 5:45 p.m., Monday through Friday. If you plan to enroll in an autism practicum (ABSC 680), please see Professor Reagan Cox at one of the sign-up meetings for a description of the practicum (Little Steps). The hours for Little Steps are 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. or 11:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Prior to attending the practicum sign-up meetings, students should review the timetable and draft a schedule that will accommodate practicum hours. Please be aware that practicum spots are limited and instructors may not be able to accommodate late requests for a practicum.


Related Professional Associations

The Society for Community Research and Action - Community Psychology, Division 27 of the American Psychological Association - is an international organization devoted to advancing theory, research, and social action. Its members are committed to promoting health and empowerment and to preventing problems in communities, groups, & individuals. SCRA serves many different disciplines that focus on community research and action.

Division 25 - Behavior Analysis promotes basic research, both animal and human, in the experimental analysis of behavior; it encourages the application of the results of such research to human affairs, and cooperates with other disciplines whose interests overlap with those of the Division.

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit professional membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.

The American Public Health Association aims to protect all Americans, their families and their communities from preventable, serious health threats and strives to assure community-based health promotion and disease prevention activities and preventive health services are universally accessible in the United States. APHA represents a broad array of health professionals and others who care about their own health and the health of their communities.

APA is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities. We measure our success by the successes of our members and the communities they serve.