Understanding Autism

Understanding Autism's curriculum is in-depth, yet very straightforward, explicitly written to apply to K-12 teachers. By course completion, you will have a toolkit packed with practical ways to best help students facing ASD challenges so that they can enjoy the fullest educational experience possible.

Understanding Autism

Autism can affect any person, no matter their ethnic or socioeconomic background. It is a fact, however, that not all students are diagnosed promptly. There is no simple medical test to screen for an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which is why many people go years without a confirmed diagnosis. We know that the earlier an intervention occurs, the better chance students have to receive proper support in their educational development. Early intervention, in turn, leads to considerable advantages throughout the person’s lifetime.

Although teachers are not tasked to diagnose disorders, the odds are high that they may have students on the spectrum. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires the use of Least Restrictive Environments (LREs) when teaching any special needs students. This act means implementing inclusion in a general classroom setting to the “maximum extent that is appropriate.” Yet, all too often, K-12 teachers receive little-to-no special needs educator training, putting them in a tough position. That is why Professional Development Courses at the University of La Verne offers the course Understanding Autism.


Why Understanding Autism is Vital for Educators                                     

Roughly, one out of every 54 American children has an ASD diagnosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of that number, boys are vastly more likely than girls to receive a diagnosis, and 31% of those with ASD face learning challenges due to intellectual disabilities. As one of the most common childhood disorders, Autism has enormous impacts on the individual, family, society, and education.

Autism is also profoundly misunderstood and often underdiagnosed. As K-12 teachers work to stay abreast of the wide range of issues their students face, Autism often slips under the radar. Such oversights can lead to less than optimal outcomes for students struggling with unseen barriers to learning, as they may not know how to seek assistance. People living with ASD may not even realize that their educational experience differs from that of their peers, which can create frustration, demoralization, and despair. This course focuses on practical strategies for recognizing signs and educating children with ASD.


Benefits of the Course

Understanding Autism offers numerous benefits to all K-12 teachers, including:

  • Learning fundamental causes of ASD, such as genetic and environmental influences.
  • How to recognize early indicators.
  • Gaining general knowledge of diagnostic criteria.
  • Effective methods for creating inclusive classroom environments.
  • Enhanced cultural and linguistic diversity.
  • Expanded understanding of impacts on family members, caregivers, and educators.
  • Insights into respondent and operant behavior.
  • Modern techniques for teaching replacement behaviors.
  • Building family partnerships that reinforce positive behavior.
  • Instructional approaches to develop communication and enrich social skills.
  • Setting measurable functional goals using an Individualized Education Program(IEP).
  • Transition planning and postsecondary education.
  • Coping with challenges through appropriate modifications.


The course’s curriculum is in-depth, yet very straightforward, explicitly written to apply to K-12 teachers. By course completion, you will have a toolkit packed with practical ways to best help students facing ASD challenges so that they can enjoy the fullest educational experience possible.


Understanding Autism Course Contents

Understanding Autism, offered by Professional Development Courses at the University of La Verne, covers the following content areas: 

  • An overview of Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Understanding differing family perspectives
  • Responding effectively to school-family collaboration challenges
  • Linking ASD assessment to instructional planning
  • An introduction to Applied Behavior Analysis as a therapeutic intervention
  • Functional Behavioral Assessment
  • Behavioral Intervention Plans
  • Positive behavior and environmental supports
  • Social skills development
  • Growing academic skills
  • Building and strengthening communication and functional skills
  • Early interventions for children between ages 3 - 5
  • Transition management to adulthood


By studying these topics, students can learn about the challenges facing people affected by Autism, as well as their unique insights and gifts. The curriculum was designed for busy working K-12 teachers who want the flexibility and convenience of a distance learning course that is rigorous enough to count for graduate credit from an accredited university. All content is self-paced, written in user-friendly language, and can be completed in an online or via emailed PDF format.

Successful completion of Understanding Autism can help teachers learn how to modify their teaching and classrooms to improve learning outcomes for students with ASD. Doing so can have life-changing impacts on every facet of such students’ futures, from higher education to careers. The new skills and credits received may also boost your professional career, qualifying you for potential promotions, pay increases, or license renewal/recertification.

This three-credit course counts towards the University of La Verne’s 15-credit certificate in Inclusive Classroom Teaching. Other popular course options for this certificate include:

Note, the University of La Verne is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Since requirements may vary, students should check with their school district or state department of education before enrolling in a course.


How to Register

Understanding Autism is completed in an online or via emailed PDF format. It is open for anyone to register at any time during an open semester. After completion, students receive graduate, non-degree semester credit on official transcripts from the University of La Verne, an accredited university in La Verne, California.

Registration is fast and straightforward and can be done online or over the phone. Courses are offered on a rolling basis during three standard semesters, and you can begin whenever you are ready! The registration dates are:

  • Fall: September 1 - January 31
  • Spring: February 1 - May 31
  • Summer: June 1 - August 31

Teaching students with Autism is a reality every teacher will eventually face. A better understanding of how to effectively instruct these students can make all the difference in the world. Register today, and prepare to learn how to help students overcome one of the most significant educational barriers they may ever face.


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