Ultimate Online Guide to Becoming an Autistic Support Teacher

1
Introduction

Autism is a neurological disorder that typically affects an individual's sensory and social development. In some people, autism can also affect cognitive and motor development. The condition typically begins to show signs in a child prior to age three. In some cases, a diagnosis is not made until adulthood although symptoms must always be present during childhood.†

According to the latest statistics from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of diagnosis for autism spectrum disorders is 1 out of 88 children. For boys, the rate is 1 out of 54. Many classrooms in todayís public schools will have a child with an autism diagnosis. Many teachers, doctors and human services professionals will work with at least one child who has an autism diagnosis during their career. Some choose to make their careers out of helping children on the autism spectrum grow and thrive. Autism support teachers are essential members of an autistic childís support team and with todayís increase in the rate of diagnosis, the demand for qualified autism support teachers is high.

We have compiled the best resources available for helping one decide if becoming an autism support teacher is the right career choice. These resources will help those interested in working with autistic children learn what skills and education will be needed in order to pursue a career in special education. The following resources also provide information on the process for securing oneís dream job as an autism support teacher. In addition, we have provided several ideas to help autism support teachers be successful in the classroom.

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What is an Autistic Support Teacher?

Autism support teachers work in educational settings with children who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. Like a general education teacher, an autism support teacher will have a degree in education and in many cases will be a licensed teacher. However, unlike a general education teacher, autism teachers will likely have a masterís degree in special education with additional autism certification.

Autism support teachers have several responsibilities. They are responsible for working directly with the student in both classroom and one-on-one settings. An autism teacher will provide education based on the general education curriculum and state standards using accommodations from the childís Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The autism support teacher also develops supports and specialized learning environments that help students thrive in the classroom. Finally, the teacher is responsible for developing IEP goals for the student, as well as attending meetings with the studentís parents and the childís therapy team.

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Who Would Be a Good Candidate to Become an Autistic Support Teacher?

Being an autism support teacher can be a very challenging and rewarding career choice. Children with autism spectrum disorders have educational needs that are often quite different than typically developing children have. Some children may have difficulty bonding with the teacher while others are non-verbal or have significant behavior challenges. Some children with autism have significant cognitive delays while others are academically gifted and have trouble staying challenged. An autism support teacher must be even-tempered and accepting of all of his or her students, regardless of their challenges. Being very organized is helpful in order to provide a structured environment for the children. However, special education teachers must also be flexible enough to change plans or teaching styles if necessary. Autism teachers are also creative and able to approach a concept from different directions depending on the studentís own needs.

The following list of resources describes the personality characteristics that can help an autism support teacher be successful. The links also describe the educational and licensure requirements that allow one to be a candidate for an autism teaching position.

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How Can I become an Autistic Support Teacher?

Becoming an autism support teacher often requires an undergraduate degree in either psychology or education. In addition, candidates must pursue a masterís degree in special education or another related field. Those who plan on becoming an autism teacher can also pursue additional certifications in an autism specialization or behavior analysis in order to be a more well-rounded and knowledgeable teacher.

Many masterís degree programs require candidates to successfully complete an internship or practicum. For an autism support teacher, an internship as a special education itinerant teacher can meet requirements while also giving the candidate essential experience. As an itinerant teacher, the candidate will usually work one-on-one with a student, often in a general education or preschool setting.

Finally, an autism support teacher must gain experience in several types of common intervention strategies. Many autism teachers pursue certification or additional training in the Lovaas Model of Discrete Trial Training, Applied Behavior Analysis and the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). Knowledge of Floortime, the Pivotal Response Treatment program and Relationship Development Intervention can also be helpful.†

The links below provide resources on the requirements an individual must complete prior to pursuing a career as an autism support teacher.†

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Online Masterís of Special Education- Autistic Support Programs

For the busy teacher, obtaining a masterís degree online can be a convenient way to pursue the degree necessary to become an autism support teacher. Very few programs offer a masterís degree in autism, but many offer degrees in special education with specializations or certification in autism spectrum disorders. Large universities such as the University of Missouri, Arizona State University, St. Maryís University and the University of Massachusetts offer online programs for those pursuing a masterís degree in special education. Arizona State University and Drexel University online also offer a graduate certificate in autism spectrum disorders designed for psychologists, behavior analysts or teachers who wish to gain additional training in the spectrum disorders.

Online programs can allow teachers to earn their degrees after work hours or on the weekends. It often takes several months to complete a certificate program and two to three years to complete a masterís degree program. Many masterís degree programs also require an internship or practicum that must be completed in a professional setting.†

The resources below illustrate some of the options available to those who wish to pursue a masterís degree or certification in the autism spectrum disorders in an online setting.

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How to Find Your Dream Job as an Autistic Support Teacher

In todayís education system, the rate of children with autism diagnoses is quickly rising. Almost every public and private school in the United States hires teachers that are qualified to work with children on the autism spectrum. While many school districts are cutting budgets and may even have to lay off teachers, the No Child Left Behind Act requires that school districts ensure an adequate number of special education teachers to adequately educate children with identified disabilities.

In order to successfully land a dream career as an autism support teacher, it is important to be organized. Prior to sending out resumes, the candidate should create a portfolio with transcripts, certifications, recommendations from previous employers or professors, lesson plans developed by the candidate, descriptions of student teaching experience and Praxis results. Those who have worked as a general education teacher can also create a statement of how they worked with special needs students in their classrooms. After the portfolio is gathered, the candidate can then seek out employment opportunities. Sites such as Indeed.com, Glass Door and Simply Hired can help a candidate find available openings.

Below are resources designed to assist candidates in finding their dream job as an autism support teacher.

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How to Succeed in Your Job as an Autistic Support Teacher

Successful autism support teachers have a great understanding of the Individualized Education Program, or IEP. This document is essential in understanding the studentís academic, behavior and social needs and the teaching strategies most likely to be successful with the student. This document is a legally binding requirement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and No Child Left Behind, and the school district is required to provide the accommodations listed in the IEP. It can also open the doors of communication with the childís parents, especially if the teacher has additional suggestions to help the student thrive in the classroom.

The following resources provide information on understanding and developing an IEP. In addition, resources are included offering tips to helping children grow and thrive in the classroom, including ideas on how to understand the needs of students. The needs of children with autism often differ from the needs of typically developing children, so understanding the social skills, communication and learning needs of children on the autism spectrum can help an autism teacher be highly successful in the classroom.

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Support Organizations and Websites for Teachers of Students with Autism

Being an autism support teacher can be challenging and demanding. Having a strong support system in place is essential to prevent burnout. While family and friends can provide some support to the autism teacher, there are also several online resources available so that autism teachers can communicate with colleagues to get ideas for use in the classroom, to vent about difficulties and to find the support needed to be successful. Professional organizations, such as the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, the Certified Autism Specialist Board and the National Association of Special Education Teachers can provide support regarding continuing education, standards of practice and aspects relating to the certification and licensure of autism support teachers. Other organizations, such as Edutopia, offer opportunities for special education teachers to exchange ideas using a message board format. Blogs such as Positively Autism can offer ideas for unique situations that autism support teachers face as well as ideas for teaching difficult subjects and free teaching materials that can be printed and used in the classroom.

The following links describe some of the resources available to help autism support teachers be successful in their teaching careers.

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Recommended Blogs

Some of the best resources for autism support teachers are blogs. Blogs written by special education teachers, professional organizations and parents of children diagnosed with autism can all offer important information and ideas to teachers. Autism Speaks and the Autism Society write blog posts about important policy changes, laws and best practices to those working in the autism field. Blogs like The Autism Teacher and One Piece at a Time are written by teachers in order to share and exchange ideas with other teachers. These websites offer information on a variety of topics, from lesson planning to teaching a particular subject and preventing teacher burnout. Websites like Teen Autism provide information on autism spectrum disorders from a parentís perspective in order to allow teachers to gain a new perspective on children with spectrum disorder diagnoses.

The following resources are just some of the many blogs available on the Internet that provide information on autism and special education.

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Activities and Materials for Educating Students with Autism

The Internet can be a wealth of information for new and experienced autism support teachers. Websites such as Pinterest can provide thousands of ideas for materials that can be made to reinforce lessons or teach new concepts. Pinterest can also provide ideas for classroom setup and management and picture communication cards that can be printed and laminated. Blogs and websites such as Autism and More, Education.com and Activities Children offer dozens of activities teachers can integrate into their classroom. Some activities provide unique sensory experiences for children with autism and some align with state standards to reinforce academic concepts. These websites also offer ideas for teachers to use to help their children learn coping mechanisms to deal with anxiety and frustration and increase independence in the classroom settings.

The following resources offer ideas for autism support teachers to use in their classrooms.

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Other Great Resources

The following resources are available to help autism support teachers learn more about autism spectrum disorders, set up their classrooms and have a successful teaching career. The National Autism Resources website is a wealth of information, offering ideas on everything from how to set up a classroom to top learning toys and classroom products. The Thinking Personís Guide to Autism offers tips to teachers and professionals on moving past the stereotypes of autism in order to better understand students with spectrum diagnoses. Organizations such as the National Autism Resource and Information Center offer information to empower autism teachers. From information on a multitude of topics from developing strong and effective IEPs to helping students transition to college, NARIC provides the information needed for autism teachers to be highly effective in working with a variety of situations. The Cooperative Educational Service Agency offers additional ideas on goals that are often overlooked and may be helpful in IEPs.†

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Conclusion

With around 2% of American children being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, the demand for autism support teachers is rapidly increasing. This challenging and rewarding career can be the perfect choice for organized, creative and determined people who want to make a difference in the lives of children with developmental disabilities. There are many resources available to help autism support teachers be successful in this in-demand career where a teacher can truly make a difference in the lives of students with autism spectrum disorders.