Autism Specialty Track
School psychologists play a vital role in identifying students who are experiencing challenges in the learning environment and who may need additional support. Among those students are children meeting the diagnostic criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Although at one time ASD ("autism") may have been considered a “low incidence” classification, the prevalence of this disorder has risen considerably over the past 15-20 years. The U.S. Department of Education reports that during the 2019-2020 school year, 10.9% of children ages 5 to 21 served under IDEA received special education and related services under an Autism special education disability category. This means that over the course of their careers, school psychologists are highly likely to be involved in assessments to identify the presence of ASD in students and/or to evaluate students previously classified under an Autism disability category.
Despite an increased prevalence of ASD and the prominent role of school psychologists in identifying students for special education and related services, many school psychologists report that they do not feel adequately prepared to assess and plan interventions for students with ASD. In order to help address this issue, the School Psychology program at Texas State University has developed the Autism Specialty Track.
What is the Autism Specialty Track?
The Autism Specialty Track (AST) provides students enrolled in the School Psychology program at Texas State University with the opportunity to gain expanded knowledge of, and experience with, students with ASD. In addition to completing core school psychology program course work, students who follow the AST participate in a semester-long clinical experience in the CARES Assessment Clinic (information about the CARES Assessment Clinic can be found here). In addition, they take two faculty-approved elective courses pertinent to working with students with ASD (e.g., Educating Students with ASD and Other Developmental Disabilities). Upon completion of the school psychology program and the AST, eligible students receive a certificate issued by the school psychology program verifying their additional training in ASD identification and intervention. Students who successfully complete the AST may add this accomplishment to their resume.
Students who have completed the AST, as well as field supervisors and potential employers, have repeatedly noted the added value that the AST training experience provides students. For example, one graduate of the program who followed the AST wrote, “I was able to utilize my experience and knowledge that I gained in the CARES clinic to my practicum and internship testing, interpretation, and report writing, primarily when working with Autism cases.”
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