During the coronavirus situation, many families who have children or adults with autism spectrum disorder are facing the suspension of in-person schooling, day programs and essential services they are used to receiving.

Since 2009, graduate students in Fresno State’s Applied Behavior Analysis master’s degree program have worked at Focused Behavioral Services at Fresno State to gain hands-on experience working with autistic children and adults.

Although social distancing rules have disrupted students’ efforts to work in person with their clients, it has not stopped them from continuing their work. As an essential service, Focused Behavioral Services has remained operational during the coronavirus situation, and has retained active services for 90% of its clients.

“Focused Behavioral Services has served hundreds of families in the Central Valley over the last 10 years, and we are proud to continue to do so, virtually, throughout the current coronavirus crisis,” said Dr. Marianne Jackson, clinical director for Focused Behavioral Services. “Our students and staff continue to gain relevant experience while supporting individuals and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders in the local community.”

The Department of Psychology program provides students with the education and paid, supervised experience required to become board certified.

The program loaned iPads to families who did not have access to a smartphone or computer. “We have had to drastically alter how we deliver services in a short period of time, transitioning from in-person services to Telehealth,” said Matisse Lovett, a Fresno State graduate student. “While this has, of course, been challenging and not without road bumps, it has been encouraging to see our staff and the families we work with come together to find innovative ways for us to continue to support our clients during these difficult times.”

Students received additional resources, training and supervision to work remotely to ensure that clients with autism spectrum disorder get the services they need. Both students and board-certified behavioral analysts are using telehealth meetings to empower parents or caregivers and to provide services with clients. Students are receiving fieldwork experience from home and providing families with personalized timetables, visual support and much-needed advice.

Abril Giselle Lopez Cervantes a first-year graduate student in the program, said, “Due to Covid-19, Focused Behavioral Services has shifted to provide telehealth services via Zoom, FaceTime, phone calls, videos, etc. Change can be hard for a lot of our clients. We’ve taken this into consideration and are happy that we can continue to provide parents with useful tools. Focused Behavioral Services will continue to provide the best quality of services and support to our families during this uncertain time.”

Families seeking support for a loved one with autism can call 559.278.6779 and leave a message or email fbs_admin@mail.fresnostate.edu for more information.