College's Special Education, Autism Program Adds State Endorsement
More children in the state and the nation are being identified as having ASD than ever before, according to Pam Wolfe, program director. Teaching professionals could increase their marketability with this endorsement because schools have a great need for expertise in the area of ASD.
“The competencies that the students are getting in the courses are ones that are shown to be research-based and effective for individuals with ASD,” Wolfe said. “The endorsement is heavy on empirical evidence, so the program uses standards from Council for Exceptional Children, the National Autism Center and other research.”
The program overlaps with the preexisting postbaccalaureate Certificate in Educating Individuals with Autism. Like the certificate program, the endorsement program involves 12 credits of specific online coursework. Students must complete an additional 80 hours of field experience having direct contact with professionals and students with ASD in order to receive the endorsement. The endorsement program can be completed in one academic year and one summer, according to Wolfe.
The field experiences are integrated throughout the coursework. Additionally, research is incorporated into the field experiences.
“Students will put the practices we teach into play to see if they are working,” Wolfe said. “For instance, students in the program will have to implement a database project for students [with ASD] to increase either a behavioral goal or academic goal. A faculty member would give them feedback, modify and then see the effects in the classroom.”
The endorsement is available to teaching professionals currently holding a Level I or Level II Instructional and Educational Specialist Certificates, including regular and special education teachers, school psychologists, principals, guidance counselors, speech and language clinicians, occupational and physical therapists, reading specialists and home and school visitors, professionals who help identify and solve students issues.
“I wanted Penn State to be a part of alleviating the shortages of teachers that have expertise in ASD,” said Wolfe. “We are really well-suited because the College of Education combines research and teaching very well, so it’s a perfect opportunity for individuals to get feedback on research and to let them practice excellence in teaching.”
By Samantha Schwartz (October 2014)