How Do I Specialize a Special Education Degree in Autism?

Autism SpecializationsIf you want to be on the frontier of a human services field facing a critical shortage nationwide where the rewards are both emotional and financial, then you may wish to specialize a special education degree in autism. As Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) now affects one percent of all youth between the ages of 3-17, there is a significant demand for qualified personnel to help these students maximize their educational, social, and communicative potential. In fact, autism is the fastest-growing development disability in the world with an extraordinary 1,148% growth rate, according to the Autism Society. In order to receive the training essential to meeting the unique learning needs of school children with a wide range of abilities and disabilities, the following are a few ways you can specialize a special education degree at the master’s level in autism.

Choose a Concentration in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Since there is a growing need for early diagnosis and intervention in the classroom for children with autism, there are many graduate special education programs that offer a concentration in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) as part of the degree plan. Along with the special education core on disabilities and academic interventions, the specialization in autism will allow you to focus on how to specifically manage the exceptional learning needs of autistic students. In most cases, the program will also require the completion of a student-teaching experience in a special education or inclusive classroom with children on the autism spectrum. To pursue this degree, you will likely need to have a bachelor’s degree related to education or psychology with some previous teaching experience.

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Pursue a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate for Autism

For students who are enrolled in a master’s degree program in special education that does not offer a specialization in autism, you may want to consider pursuing a post-baccalaureate or graduate certificate specializing in autism to supplement your degree. Graduate certificates in autism are offered nationwide to accommodate special education teachers, general educators, behavior specialists, school counselors, social workers, and school psychologists. With a focus on effective educational programming for students on the autism spectrum, the certificate will typically require between 12 and 18 credits for completion. Through the program, you will learn how to assess students with autism, provide appropriate instruction, develop strategies to enhance communication, and strengthen professional skills in working with other educators.

Consider Earning a Master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis

While earning a special education degree is perfect for those planning to work within the classroom, you may also want to consider achieving a master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis to open up other job opportunities in hospitals, schools, mental health clinics, behavioral centers, and long-term residential facilities. Graduates with a degree in ABA also can find an increase in career options for teaching job skills and promoting work performance for young adults with autism. Focusing on the study of human behavior as a branch of psychology, Applied Behavior Analysis will teach you on appropriate methods for providing services to autistic individuals from young childhood through adulthood.

Related Resource: Become a Developmental Specialist

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Overall, autism is a neurological disorder that can mildly or severely impact a child’s ability to communicate, understand language, engage in play, sense emotions, adjust to changes in routine, and relate to other children. When you choose one of these pathways to specialize a special education degree in autism, you will have the rewarding opportunity to educate students with autism to bolster their chances of succeeding inside and outside the classroom. For more information on Autism, visit Autism Speaks.