Saint Joseph’s University’s Special Education Program Granted Approval to offer Autism Spectrum Disorders Endorsement by the Pennsylvania Department of Education

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After review, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has officially endorsed the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) specialization of the Master’s in Special Education at Saint Joseph’s University. This endorsement signifies that the ASD program curriculum meets the state’s standards for teaching education in this area and automatically qualifies students to receive the state credential upon successful completion of the coursework.

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The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has officially endorsed the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) specialization within the Master’s in Special Education program at Saint Joseph’s University. This endorsement signifies that the ASD program curriculum meets the state’s standards for teaching education in this area and automatically qualifies students to receive the state credential upon successful completion of the coursework.

The MS in Special Education and the ASD endorsement are available in an online format as well as on campus, allowing students all over the country to take part in the program. Students who do not plan to teach in Pennsylvania can still benefit from the endorsement, as it confirms the high quality of the curriculum.

The ASD specialization of the Master’s in Special Education promotes teaching skills that match growing needs in the special education market. Today, schools are seeking qualified educators who can provide specialized services for children with ASD and other learning disorders as they integrate into mainstream classrooms. At the same time, there is a growing recognition among educators and parents that early intervention with new behavioral therapies is a critical factor in improving student learning outcomes.

The four-course ASD specialization within the online MS in Special Education focuses on research-based strategies for assessment, skill development and behavioral modification for students of all ages diagnosed with the disorder. Coursework includes an overview of possible causes, diagnosis and advocacy as well as approaches to communication and socialization and evidence-based practices for intervention and instruction. Students build a strong foundation in the principles, ethics, values and best practices in ASD education.

Dr. Sam Slike, director of the online special education program states, "We are very proud of our newly awarded Autism Spectrum Disorders Endorsement from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. With this endorsement, graduates can add this area of expertise to their resumes and ensure employers that they are qualified to provide quality programming for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. This is yet one more indication of the quality options in Special Education that we have to offer graduate students at Saint Joseph's University."

Expertise in this area is in demand all over the United States. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates the number of children with autism in the United States continues to rise. According to current estimates, 1 in 88 American children have some form of Autism Spectrum Disorder, a 78% increase compared to a decade ago. As a result, employment opportunities for preschool, kindergarten, elementary, middle and secondary school Special Education teachers are growing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that employment of special education teachers, including teachers of students with ASD, will grow by 17 percent from 2010 to 2020, due in part to earlier identification of students with special needs and higher standards. The BLS reports that “many schools, particularly those in urban and rural areas, have difficulties recruiting and keeping special education teachers. As a result, special education teachers should have little difficulty finding employment.”

Saint Joseph’s University is one of a very few schools that offers a specialization in autism education. Graduates with this specialized knowledge have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the growing number of children and teens with ASD as well as to empower themselves as effective teachers.

To learn more about the online Special Education program offerings including the new ASD endorsement, call (866) 758-7670 or go to online.sju.edu.

About Saint Joseph’s University:
Founded in 1851, Saint Joseph’s University is a not-for-profit, Jesuit, Catholic university welcoming students of all faiths with the goal of producing graduates who will use their skills to improve the common good by promoting tolerance, compassion and social justice. Saint Joseph’s University has been ranked the #8 Best Regional University, as well as among the top 15 master’s universities in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for the past 15 consecutive years. Accreditation is by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and programs are offered both on campus and online.

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Eric Connelly
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