Hattiesburg - The University of Southern Mississippi has a new program that is leading the state in autism therapy.
The program was created after Governor Phil Bryant signed House Bill 885, which requires insurance agencies to cover therapy for people with autism.
The first cohort of students recently finished their first semester of the Master's degree in Psychology with an emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).
"Applied Behavior Analysis is the scientific approach to solving social problems such as children who have difficulty communicating," Director of Training James Moore said.
The new program that began in fall 2015 was created to meet the needs for professionals working with children with autism.
"In Mississippi we have around 11,000 children with autism and right now we have about 40 qualified professionals to work with these children," Moore said.
The 48-hour curriculum teaches student different techniques by putting them in practical settings.
"It can be anything from playing on the floor with a child with toys to sitting at a table with what looks like academic work," Moore said.
"Even within our first semester we were able to have some clinical and schooled experiences out in the schools," ABA student Katie Bishop said.
"In the school clinic we have video cameras where they can actually look at us from another room in the other clinic and they can assist you while you're working with the child," ABA student Briana Newborn said.
Currently ten students are enrolled into the ABA program and the department said they have more than 60 applicants for next fall's admission.