Teaching of Individuals with Autism

Teaching individuals with autism can be both rewarding and challenging, and often requires special training and certification. Keep reading for more information about academic and licensing requirements, job growth and potential salaries for special education teachers.

Is Teaching Individuals with Autism for Me?

Career Overview

Autism is the best-known of a small group of pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs), which are also referred to as autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Individuals with autism experience the world differently than others and have difficulty communicating, socializing or learning. Although the signs and symptoms of autism can vary greatly from one person to the next, individuals with autism have one thing in common: they typically need some type of special education. Mildly autistic students may be able to attend special classes at a public school; home-based and private schooling options are also available.

Employment and Salary Information

Although rewarding, a career teaching children with autism may also be stressful, physically demanding and emotionally draining. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job prospects for all special education teachers are expected to increase by 6% nationwide between 2012 and 2022, which is slower than the national average for all other occupations. As of May 2012, elementary and high school special education teachers earned median annual salaries of $53,820 and $56,830, respectively (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Become a Teacher of Individuals with Autism?

Educational Requirements

Entry-level education and hiring requirements for autism specialists in public schools include a bachelor's degree in teaching, special education or a specific subject area, as well as a state-issued license. As a qualified graduate, you may also qualify for a position as a private school teacher, which does not require state licensure. Full certification may require completion of a master's degree program in special education. In addition to classroom work, degree requirements include fieldwork and a supervised student teaching experience.

Graduate Certificate Programs

Although graduate certificate programs are usually designed for current teachers and autism specialists, you don't necessarily need a teaching license to enroll. Most programs take 1-2 years of full-time or part-time study to complete and may be available online. In addition to learning about the characteristics of autistic students, you'll study functional routines, expressive language and social interaction. Behavior analysis and pivotal response training may also be covered.

Graduate certificate programs specific to Asperger's Syndrome, one of the autism spectrum disorders, are also available from some schools. In some cases, credits from an autism graduate certificate program can be applied toward a master's degree in special education.

Certification Requirements

While each state has its own requirements, a bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for obtaining a job as a special education teacher, which can include a special endorsement for teaching students with autism. Additional requirements include completion of a teacher preparation program and a background check.

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