BAYADA Behavioral Health Director of Clinical Operations Kristen Koba-Burdt, BCBA, LBA, received the 2020 Champion Award from the University of Massachusetts Medical Center’s Autism Insurance Resource Center (AIRC). She earned the recognition for her work on the delivery of applied behavior analysis (ABA) services via telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. The AIRC is a program for consumers, providers, employers, and educators on issues related to medical insurance for autism treatment.

ABA therapy is an applied science used for the treatment of autism and related learning or social disorders to reduce challenging behaviors and increase functional skills. Interventions based on the principles of ABA are evidence-based, with clearly defined procedures to address social, communication, behavioral, and self-help deficits.

“At the height of COVID-19, school closures, changes in daily routine, and lack of access to in-person treatment had the potential to lead to a loss of skills or to increased anxiety and challenging behaviors for those with autism,” explained Koba-Burdt. “Telehealth provided the autism community with safe and easy access to their vital ABA services.”

As a tireless advocate for advancing the field of ABA, Koba-Burdt has participated in national, state, and local grassroots activities to pass autism insurance reform legislation across the country. Today, ABA services are now covered in all 50 states. In 2019, she received the Sustained Outstanding Advocacy Award at the Autism Law Summit for her efforts to support families in rural and underserved areas and her focus on increasing insurance provider knowledge of autism policy.

Koba-Burdt has worked with individuals with autism in their homes, communities, schools, and clinic settings. In addition, she has served on multiple boards and committees, including President of the Hawai’i Association for Behavior Analysis (HABA), co-leader of the Council of Autism Service Providers Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Special Interest Group, and member of the Hawai’i Behavioral Analyst State Licensure Ethics Committee. She has also shared her expertise as a university instructor for graduate-level ABA courses, has presented at numerous conferences, and is currently co-authoring a textbook on ethics for the practice of behavior analysis.

“I am so grateful to the AIRC for this honor,” said Koba-Burdt. “It is truly humbling to be recognized for doing the work that is so close to my heart.”

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