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New Special Education Dual Degree Program Launched to Serve Nationwide Autism Need  

Frank Cicero

Frank Cicero

The College of Education and Human Services has introduced a five-year dual degree program that will allow students to earn their B.S.E in Elementary and Special Education and M.A. in Special Education with an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) concentration. The program will be led by incoming Assistant Professor and Program Director Frank Cicero, who brings more than 20 years of expertise in ABA, psychology and autism.

One of the leading therapies for children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities, ABA is the process of introducing and shaping appropriate behavior, communication and academics through the principles of learning theory. ABA techniques can be used in structured situations such as classrooms as well as in everyday, real-life situations.

"There is an ever-growing need for Board Certified Behavior Analysts in New Jersey and nationwide," said Cicero. "This program is unique because it allows students to become certified in teaching, be eligible to sit for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst certification exam and receive placements for their practicum hours. It is a great opportunity for motivated students interested in special education and autism."

Cicero is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and New York State licensed psychologist. He received his bachelor's degree in psychology and master's degree in school psychology from St. Johns University and his doctorate in educational psychology from City of New York Graduate Center. He previously served as the director of psychological services for a large agency serving children and adults on the autistic spectrum in New York and as an adjunct instructor in graduate ABA at Caldwell University. He will begin his position as program director effective January 1, 2017.

"I am excited and honored to join the College of Education and Human Services," said Cicero. "I look forward to inspiring my students in the classroom and sparking their research interests. It is my hope that students will graduate from the program with a passion for special education and behavior analysis."

"Dr. Cicero comes with a wealth of knowledge in the field of ABA," said Brian Conners, instructor and current director of the ABA program. "He has years of clinical experience in the field that will directly help our students in learning the skills needed to become good practitioners. He also has extensive research and teaching experience that will be beneficial to the students in the program."

Brian Yankouski

Brian Conners

Conners developed the post-graduate certification program in ABA and the new dual degree program after realizing the need for it. "The program was created as a means to help prepare high quality well-trained individuals to work in the field of behavior analysis with individuals across the lifespan with various disabilities and behavioral disorders," he said. "This program helps to fill the void in New Jersey, which has one of the highest rates of autism."

According to The Center for Disease Control, one in 68 children nationally and one in 45 children in New Jersey has an autism spectrum disorder and the rate has increased by 30 percent in the past five years. Regional employer demand for individuals certified in ABA has grown 90 percent in the last five years, and this new program will meet that need.

The unique program is designed to prepare future educators and human services professionals for careers in a variety of community, education and business settings. Classes are based on the task list developed by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board Inc.

"The courses are a combination of foundational courses and theory with applied applications of the science of ABA," said Conners. "Through the courses students learn various teaching strategies and assessments for individuals with various behavioral disorders, how to design treatment plans and interventions, and then participate in practicum courses where they gain real world experiences in schools, clinics, hospitals and residential programs."

"I encourage all students interested in special education to consider this new dual degree program," said Cicero. "In just five years, students will have the chance to gain the analytical skills and fundamental knowledge to develop, implement and evaluate valuable techniques that help produce positive behavioral change in individuals with special needs. They will have the opportunity to make a real difference."

For more information about the College of Education and Human Services, click here ». To learn more about the B.S.E. in Elementary and Special Education and M.A. in Special Education with an ABA concentration program, please contact Brian Conners at

Categories: Education

For more information, please contact:

  • Brian Conners
  • (973) 761-9394
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