Special Education Program Receives Autism Endorsement

PDE grants the Autism Spectrum Disorders Endorsement for SJU program

Friday, November 2, 2012

by Olivia D'Atri '14

PHILADELPHIA (Nov. 2, 2012) — The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has granted Saint Joseph’s University’s special education program the Autism Spectrum Disorders Endorsement for a four-course, 12-credit specialization. Saint Joseph’s University is one of nine select universities that have received this Endorsement from the PDE.

The endorsement gives teachers, who are often involved in the student evaluation and assessment process, a competitive advantage over others in a market where there is a growing need for special education teachers, specifically those with skills geared toward Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated one in 88 American children have some form of ASD — a 78 percent increase compared to a decade ago. The number of diagnosed children continues to grow.

"We are delighted to have been approved to offer the Autism Spectrum Disorder endorsement,” says Cathleen Spinelli, Ph.D., chair and professor of special education. “This four course endorsement identifies those teachers who earn it as having the educational credential to teach the growing number of students with ASD. Many of our graduate students are using these ASD courses as electives toward their master's degree program."

The program will train teachers in research-based strategies regarding socialization and skill development, behavior management and modification approaches, and appropriate assessment and intervention methods. Teachers will gain knowledge in the ethics and principles surrounding ASD education for students of all ages.

ASD are a group of complex, neurological developmental disabilities that are characterized by impaired social skills, difficulties with verbal and non-verbal communication, and severely limited interests and activities. Difficulties with behavioral responses and everyday sensations including sound, touch and visual stimuli are common.

The endorsed courses are offered in a variety of ways; they can be taken online or as on-campus hybrid courses in which students meet some weeks on campus and other weeks online. The four courses count as stand-alone or as electives for the Master of Science in Special Education.

Media Contact

Contact: Kelly Welsh, Director of University Communications, College of Arts and Sciences, 610-660-1385, kwelsh@sju.edu


As Philadelphia's Jesuit, Catholic University, founded by the Society of Jesus in 1851, Saint Joseph's University provides a rigorous, student-centered education rooted in the liberal arts. SJU ranks as a top university in the Northeast, with a Phi Beta Kappa chapter in the College of Arts and Sciences and AACSB accreditation of the  Erivan K. Haub School of Business. The University is also deeply committed to the Jesuit tradition of scholarship and service, earning a place on the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll and the community engagement classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. With courses offered on campus and online, SJU prepares its more than 8,000 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students to lead lives of personal excellence, professional success and engaged citizenship.


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