Master’s in Autism Spectrum Disorders

When it comes to autism, there are many types. The word "spectrum" denotes the vast variation in strengths and challenges each person with autism may face. Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a series of conditions categorized by difficulties regarding social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication. Unique strengths and talents are also used to characterize and categorize within the spectrum. Autism is thought to be caused by varying combinations of genetic and environmental influences.

A Master's Degree in Autism Spectrum Disorders will prepare students to employ comprehensive knowledge and skill in providing capable, inclusive, and humanistic support and teaching to those on the spectrum. Candidates will be trained to work with learners of varying abilities, skills, ages, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Those who seek a Master's Degree in Autism Spectrum Disorders usually already have a degree in Special Education.

Why Get a Master's Degree in Autism Spectrum Disorders?

With a Master's Degree in Autism Spectrum disorders, graduates can qualify for positions where they will be required to teach children in inclusive classrooms, lead classrooms dedicated to students on the spectrum, as well as working in one-on-one settings. The number of children with autism in the United States is on the rise. The latest data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that that one in every sixty eight American children have some type of autism spectrum disorder - a number that has greatly risen in the last 10 years. Consequently, there is an increasing demand for specialists in the field.

Choosing an Online Master's in Autism Spectrum Disorders

When it comes time to choose an online Master's in Autism Spectrum Disorders program, you will want to be sure you are picking one that is reputable and nationally recognized. You may ask the following questions to help in the process:

Is the Program Accredited?

Accreditation represents quality assurance through peer review. A school or program should be accredited by a reputable agency. In order for an online program to become accredited, it must go through a demanding process to prove that it meets the standards as established by an organization representing the academic field. To be certain, ask if the program is approved by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). For more information on accreditation, you can visit: ed.gov/accreditation

How Long Has the Program Been Offered?

Although online learning is a relatively new form of earning a degree, it may be a good idea to find out how long the program has been offered. Generally, the longer a program has proven success, the better. When weighing your options for a Master's in Autism Spectrum Disorders, ask how many students have graduated from the program. Do consider it a clear red flag if the program has not been around long enough to obtain accreditation.

What Technologies Will Be Used to Facilitate Online Learning?

Online degree programs rely heavily on online learning platforms such as Moodle and Canvas. Thee programs act as a virtual classroom. Through this portal, students and teachers will have access to online lectures, study materials, whole-class chat rooms, grades, and more. Not all online learning platforms are made equally. That being said, it may be a good idea to do some research on online learning platforms before jumping on board.

What Resources Will I Have Access To?

Just as brick and mortar schools, a lot of online degree programs will give students access to resources. Find out the specifics. What will you have access to? Be on the lookout for the following useful tools: online research centers (which give students access to scholarly journals), technology assistance, advising, and mentorship programs.

What Skills and Topics Are Covered?

Review the program's goals and outcomes before making your decision. You should be provided with a list or a brochure containing statements that describe topics and skills that students will be familiar with upon successfully completing program requirements. Look for skills regarding assessment measures, research-based strategies, and behavioral modification for students of all ages on the spectrum.

Do You Have Job Placement Information for Students Who Recently Graduated from the Program?

This one is important because it is a good way to connect with current professionals in the field. If given the opportunity to connect with alumni from the master's degree program, ask about tips and pointers for finding success in an online program. Also, find out how their online degree in autism spectrum disorders helped them reach career goals. Connecting with recent graduates is a great way to see if a program is compatible with your needs and goals.

Is an Online Degree Right for You?

Online learning is a wonderful choice for students who are busy and need to maintain a flexible schedule. In many cases, these are working professionals who want to excel in their career, but don't have time to travel to and from class while adhering to a strict schedule. When considering online programs, think about the following:

Flexible Schedule

Online learning programs, such as a Master's Degree in Autism Spectrum Disorders, allows the learner to maintain a flexible schedule. With online programs, there is no need to adhere to a rigid schedule. Additionally, since online students do not need to commute to attend class, students can complete their work whenever and wherever. Work can be completed at the convenience of the learner.

Program Curriculum

The curriculum of online Master's Degree in Autism Spectrum Disorders courses should be similar to those at a traditional campus. Be cautious of programs that boast a "simple and easy" curriculum. In a reputable online program, you should be able to find:

  • Hard deadlines and accountability markers leading up to a final assignment or test. These are things such as presentations, assignments, quizzes, reading assignments, and reflections.
  • Whole class message boards to help students collaborate.
  • Presentations or practicums.
  • Final cumulative thesis, action project, or portfolio.

Faculty and Staff

The quality of any degree program is largely dependent on the instructors and their expertise. Reputable online schools employ high-ranked professionals in the field. When assessing an online program, ask the following:

  • Are instructors full-time, tenured, or part-time?
  • Are any of the instructors conducting their own research? Have any published studies or articles?
  • Do teachers collaborate with on and off campus partners?
  • What real-life experiences do instructors have in the field of Autism Spectrum Disorders?

Tuition and Costs

When looking at overall costs, generally, online programs are cheaper than their traditional counterparts. Here are some things to consider about online learning:

  • No costs associated with commuting, gas, parking, and car maintenance.
  • No costs associated with relocating and room & board.
  • Online students can maintain a source of income since they will not need to adjust the 9-5 working schedule.
  • Many online schools do not require extra out-of-state fees.
  • Many study materials are found online and can be references - thus, lowering book costs.

Fast Completion

Since online degree programs are flexible, students report being able to simultaneously complete requirements. In other words, online students are able to do more in less amount of time. Traditionally, students have to manage a compatible class schedule - with no classes overlapping. However, this is not a worry with online programs. Students can do as much as they feel comfortable with.

Master's Program in Autism Spectrum Disorders Course Topics

Master's Degree in Autism Spectrum Disorder programs will vary from school to school. Graduate scope of research and interests will also impact specific course requirements; however, studies generally include:

  • Collaboration and consultation in special education classrooms
  • Assessment strategies for students with mild, moderate, and severe disabilities
  • Applied behavior analysis and evidence-based practices for learners on the spectrum
  • Legal policies, practices, perspectives, and ethical practices regarding the field of special education
  • Assessing individual needs, tools for intervention, and evaluation strategies
  • Instructional planning for learners on the spectrum
  • Maintaining an inclusive classroom
  • Adaptive practice and assessment analysis
  • Practices to promote effective communication
  • Classroom and behavior management
  • Life skills and transitions for students with ASD
  • Direct application of interventions learned from coursework in order to improve teaching and learning
  • Social, sensory, and communication issues for students with ASD
  • Methods and content area instruction for students with disabilities
  • Applied behavior analysis
  • Nature and characteristics of students with ASD
  • Assessment and intervention
  • Technology and literacy for students on the spectrum

What Can I Do with a Master's in Autism Spectrum Disorders?

After completing a Master's Degree in Autism Spectrum Disorders program, graduates commonly hold titles such as special education teachers, behavior analysts, Autism Spectrum Disorder specialists, behavioral interventionists, psychologists, therapists, medical personnel, and child advocates. Graduates typically find themselves working in a K-12 public, private, or charter school setting. However in many cases, will find work in social service agencies, research agencies, and nonprofit agencies.

Professional Organizations

Joining professional organizations is a great way to stay connected and up-to-date in the field of Autism Spectrum Disorders. Most organizations organize conferences and expos as well as professional development seminars.