Master of Autism Studies

Beginning summer 2019, Saint Mary’s College will offer a Master of Autism Studies (MAS).  This campus-based program, open to both men and women, will prepare you to respond to the critical needs for understanding and responding meaningfully to autism and people with autism.  We believe these needs are best achieved through an interdisciplinary education that strives to understand the lives of people with autism as well as the science of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and the various forms of intervention that aspire to help people with autism and those who care for them.

Responding to a Critical Need

It is a well-publicized fact that diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder have skyrocketed in recent decades. In this context, the tremendous need for understanding autism spectrum disorder and for skillful caregivers and service providers is clear. However, most professionals who work with people on the spectrum are not specifically trained in autism: they are trained as generalists in traditional disciplines such as education, speech language pathology, occupational therapy, or psychology, and have to learn about ASD on the fly.  In addition, degree programs in these fields do not typically equip students with the interdisciplinary and interprofessional skills that are required for providing state of the art autism services. The Master of Autism Studies program responds to these challenges by providing the interdisciplinary expertise in autism you need to be a more effective professional and to advance in your career.

Autism Expertise

To understand and respond effectively to autism, you need to study autism.  Every course in the MAS program will provide you with expertise that is “autism specific”: from the foundational course that examines the biopsychosocial dimensions of autism, through courses that study autism interventions, speech therapy and occupational therapy, to courses that apply this knowledge to fields like education and social work.  Even the research methodology and statistics courses in the MAS program are autism specific.  When you complete this degree, you will be ready to go to work with expertise in autism on day one.

Interdisciplinary Studies

Because autism is a multidimensional entity, we must use a multidimensional approach to understand and respond to it.  This is why best practices in autism services employ interdisciplinary approaches, and autism professionals are routinely called upon to collaborate in interprofessional teams.  The MAS program prepares students to do cutting edge work in the field of autism by striking a balance between interdisciplinary scope and disciplinary rigor. You will complete coursework in psychology, statistics, research methods, approaches to autism intervention, speech language pathology, occupational therapy, education, social work, ethics and the humanities (philosophy, theology, history and literature). Your MAS courses will be taught by scholars and clinicians trained in these respective disciplines.  When you complete this program, you will be ready to lead the way in developing interdisciplinary understanding and interprofessional responses to autism.

Beyond Behavioralist Approaches

As a student in the Master of Autism Studies program, you will be introduced to a broader range of autism interventions than many other programs in the field offer. You’ll explore historical and modern approaches to ASD intervention, including: behavioralist and developmental models; focused and comprehensive interventions; school-based models, communication-based models, social skills and group therapy models; psychopharmacological therapies; and complementary and alternative approaches. You’ll examine the theoretical underpinnings of these approaches, as well as participating in practical workshops devoted to common intervention techniques. In some cases, the workshops may provide opportunities for certification in a particular approach or treatment model.

Voices of Persons with Autism

As a foundational element of the program, the curriculum includes opportunities for you to participate in community placements designed both to broaden your range of experiences with and to deepen your understanding of the richly varied lives of people on the spectrum by spending time with them.  In addition to the experiential learning components of the program, you will study the rapidly growing body of first person accounts of life with autism available in traditional academic materials (such as autobiographies) as well as in pop-cultural materials (such as films, blogs and online communities).

Pending approval by the Higher Learning Commission.