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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 specialty area or option within a specialty area from among those described below. Each specialty area has its own required sequences of courses as there are typically prerequisites for enrolling in courses beyond the introductory level. Additional information about each specialty area 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 interest in this specialty area. In this specialty area, 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 specialty area generally support practicum work with Community Living Opportunities, a community-based residential service agency for adults with developmental disabilities.

Graduates of this specialty area 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.

Basic Research or Conceptual Foundations

Students interested in basic and applied research, and history and theory of applied behavior analysis may have interest in this area. This specialty area 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 specialty area 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.

Community Health and Development

The Community Health and Development specialty area 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 specialty area 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, well-being of older adults). The premise for social problem-solving supported by the faculty and students in this specialty area 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 specialty area 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 specialty area 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 specialty area are excellent candidates for positions in public service (e.g., AmeriCorps, Peace Corps) including with community, health, and social service agencies. Graduates of this specialty area 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 specialty area 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.

Early Childhood Education

This specialty area 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. 

Organizational Behavior Management

This specialty area is for students interested in studying the application of behavioral principles to people and groups in business, industry, government, and human service settings. This specialty area includes courses in behavior analysis, research methods, and organizational behavior management with a focus on its three sub-disciplines including performance management, systems analysis, and behavior-based safety. The program culminates in practica that provide students with direct experiences improving employee behavior, work safety, or organizational systems within businesses in the community. Students completing this program will gain knowledge and experience in the areas of behavior analysis, management, staff training, and systems-level interventions. Careers: This area is relevant for students interested in behavioral consulting, management, human services, and business.

Youth Development and Juvenile Justice

This specialty area is for students who want to work with children and adolescents who may be involved formally or informally with the juvenile justice system.  It includes courses addressing issues such as juvenile law, developing relationships, counseling and problem-solving, behavioral contracting, and other techniques used when working with school-aged children and adolescents.  The course sequence culminates in a year-long practicum during which students work with children and adolescents in the Truancy Prevention and Diversion Program.  The practicum is in collaboration with the school district, Douglas County Youth Services, Department for Children and Families (formerly Social and Rehabilitation Services), the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office, and the juvenile court.   Careers:  Graduates with this specialty are excellent candidates for positions as probation officers, counselors in mental health programs, intake and assessment officers, truancy prevention specialists, and treatment personnel in intervention and treatment programs for children and adolescents.  Many students also pursue graduate study in social welfare, law, counseling, and psychology.

Specialty Area Courses

For more information about requirements for our major and specialty area options, please read the Undergraduate Student Handbook.

Related Professional Associations

APA- Division 27 (SCRA)
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.

APA Division 25- Behavior Analysis
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.

Association for Behavior Analysis International
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.

American Public Health Association
The 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.

American Planning Association
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.

Current Directions in Behavioral Science
The site is dedicated to the understanding of behavior from a natural science perspective—that is, a behavior analytic perspective.


Questions about the Graduate Program?

If you have questions about our graduate program, please contact Dr. Derek Reed, Director of Graduate Studies, at dreed@ku.edu

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