According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “About 1 in 36 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).” CDC data shows that this number increased steadily over the last two decades, from one in 150 in 2000 to the current one in 36.
Data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) shows that in 2021, 40.8% of students with ASD were taught in the general classroom 80% or more of the time, 17.2% were in the general classroom 40-79% of the time and 34.1% were in the general classroom less than 40% of the time. The rate of general classroom inclusion of students with ASD is substantially lower than the inclusion rate for all students with disabilities.
This low rate of inclusion needs to be addressed, given that, according to Autism Speaks, “Inclusion has universal benefits.” Yet Autism Speaks also notes that “most general education teachers lack sufficient autism-related instruction.” This begs the question: how can educators address the complex communication, social and learning needs of students with ASD and improve effective inclusion without proper training? Professionals who want to address this need can do so by earning a specialized master’s degree in autism-related studies and pursuing impactful professional roles across a variety of settings.
The Importance of ASD Specialists
An autism spectrum disorder specialist can work with children and adults who have been diagnosed with autism. In collaboration with general education teachers, parents and support staff, ASD specialists endeavor to support the academic, social and emotional success of individuals with ASD.
These professionals work to achieve the ultimate goal of every educator. As stated in the National Education Association’s Code of Ethics for Educators: “The educator strives to help each student realize his or her potential as a worthy and effective member of society. The educator therefore works to stimulate the spirit of inquiry, the acquisition of knowledge and understanding, and the thoughtful formulation of worthy goals.”
Get an Advanced Degree Specializing in ASD
If you are an educator and would like to specialize in ASD and pursue related professional roles, one of the best ways to acquire the skills and know-how needed is to obtain a Master of Arts in Education (M.A.Ed.) focused on autism and applied behavior analysis. Northern Kentucky University (NKU) now offers a fully online program for teachers who want to pursue this specialized degree.
NKU’s online M.A.Ed. – Teacher as Leader in Autism & Applied Behavior Analysis program provides the foundation to effectively work with individuals with ASD. As a student, you will study how to implement scientific techniques and strategies that encourage positive changes in behavior.
Moreover, NKU’s course sequence is approved by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) — a national nonprofit credentialing board established in 1998 — to meet coursework requirements for eligibility to take the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) examination. Through in-depth, BACB-approved coursework, you will learn the principles of behavior analysis and how to apply them to curriculum, methodology and the management of students with disabilities.
The same distinguished faculty who teach on campus at NKU also teach these online courses. Completion of the program prepares you to gain the credentials to work not just in schools but also in other institutions, community agencies, independent organizations or independent practice.
Coursework and Curriculum
NKU’s online M.A.Ed. – Teacher as Leader in Autism & Applied Behavior Analysis program consists of 13 courses comprising 33 credit hours. The program can be completed in as few as 18 months, and the affordable, pay-as-you-go tuition is the same for in-state and out-of-state students.
The program teaches you about the history and evolution of ASD, how to identify the characteristics of individuals with ASD and the fundamentals of applied behavior analysis (ABA). NKU’s program includes advanced courses such as Leadership in a Diverse Society, Instructional Design and Curriculum, Implementing ABA Procedures in Applied Settings, Research Methods in ABA, Personnel Supervision and Management in ABA, and Ethical Considerations in ABA.
With multiple start dates each year, this degree program is designed to accommodate the busy schedules of working professionals, parents and others who can benefit from the flexibility and convenience of online education.