MS in Special Education: Severe Disabilities with Autism Focus (Non-Certification)

The Master of Science in Special Education with a concentration in Severe Disabilities/Autism Spectrum Disorders focus will prepare you to work with and teach students who have been identified with autism spectrum disorders who require specialized instruction and intensive support in areas of independent living and adaptive behavior. Candidates who are also seeking Maryland Special Education certification will be required to complete additional coursework-speak to your advisor about this option.

In addition to your coursework, you will complete a supervised field experience during your final semester with guidance from university supervisors, mentor teachers and faculty advisors (i.e., 150 – 300 hours of hands-on experience within specialized school-based settings serving students with autism spectrum disorders).

After you have completed the 36-credit program, you will have acquired the competencies to:

  • Understand the legal issues and federal requirements involved in educating students with disabilities
  • Assess and evaluate student performances using formal and informal assessments
  • Collect and analyze data to make evidence-based decisions across academic and behavioral domains
  • Develop effective and innovative individualized instructional programs appropriate for students with autism spectrum disorders; in particular, instruct your students in community and independent living skills.
  • Assess, develop interventions, and monitor outcomes to address challenging student and classroom behaviors
  • Collaborate effectively with fellow educators, parents, itinerant teachers and other specialists, administrators, and students, when appropriate
  • Augment your instruction using the latest technology supporting students with complicated issues
  • Address the needs of students identified with autism spectrum disorders through evidence-based practices for classroom programming; teaching communication and social skills; and teaching in an inclusive classroom
  • Reflect on your own ethical practices while becoming a lifelong member of the special education professional community

In addition to passing all required courses and internships, graduate students are required to:

  •   Successfully pass a comprehensive examination
  •   Conduct a graduate student project and present the findings

Contact Us

Faculty Contact
Dr. Tamara Marder

Academic Program Coordinator
Camilla Mika-Simms



  •   Completion of online application
  •   Submission of application fee
  •   Submission of official transcripts from all postsecondary institutions attended (Cumulative GPA must be 3.0 or better)
  •   An essay describing your goals and how the program will assist you in meeting those goals uploaded
  •   A current resume or CV uploaded
  •   Two letters of recommendation from individuals who can speak to your work with children with disabilities submitted to admissions office
  •   Submission of passing scores on Praxis I Core, SAT, ACT, or GRE (For information on passing score requirements, please refer to the Maryland State Department of Education website)
  •   Applicants invited for an interview will be asked to provide a written response to a prompt and will be asked to “audition” by responding to classroom scenarios provided by faculty interviewers

For more information on the application process, please view the SOE admissions page.



6 Credits

871.501 Introduction to Children and Youth with Exceptionalities

Students investigate the major areas of exceptionality addressing the characteristics and educational needs of students with a broad range of special instructional needs. Students review incidence and etiology, diagnostic and instructional services, educational continuum of programs, and findings of recent research. (3 credits)

882.511 Human Growth and Development: A Lifespan Perspective

Students consider an overview of the physical, social, and emotional aspects of human development throughout a person’s lifespan. The course considers developmental theory and reviews current areas of research. (3 credits)




871.510 Legal Aspects, Service Systems, and Current Issues in Special Education

This online course reviews litigated and legislated standards for special education and related services for persons with disabilities. Students explore current legal issues in the provision of services for persons with disabilities, including inclusion, the response to intervention (RTI), and regulations for eligibility. (3 credits)

871.511 Instructional Planning and Management in Special Education

Students focus on the instructional and organizational skills necessary for teaching students who receive special education services. Topics of primary emphasis include developing effective individualized education plans; preparing and delivering exemplary lesson plans; and identifying instructional best-practice strategies that promote effective classroom organization and instruction. Students create lesson plans using best-practice strategies. (3 credits)

871.512 Collaborative Programming in Special Education

This course focuses on collaborative themes common to various educational settings: interpersonal communication, problem solving, cultural diversity, teamwork, and family systems theory. Students examine techniques that promote effective communication between teachers, school administrators and related professionals, and families of students with special needs. Co-teaching models that work effectively are also discussed. (3 credits)

871.513 Applied Behavioral Programming

This course will focus on the methodology of applied behavior analysis, including how the principles of behavior can be used to make changes and improvements in classroom behavior. Observational methods, single-subject designs, behavior promotion and reduction, and generalization strategies are reviewed in relation to the needs of students with disabilities. Students assess and develop individual behavior projects that demonstrate their ability to design, implement, and evaluate behavioral support programs in an ethically responsive manner. (3 credits)

877.513 Education of Students with Severe Disabilities: Augmentative Communication Systems

Students examine the design of augmentative communication systems that include use of graphic symbols for individuals with severe disabilities. Participants design and construct communication aids and develop strategies for integrating augmentative communication into the curriculum. (3 credits)

877.514 Community and Independent Living Skills

This course reviews the philosophical movements that have fostered the improvements to the instruction of children, youth, and adults with disabilities. Participants apply the principles of ecological assessment in the development of curriculum sequences for children and youth with severe disabilities, and examine current research-based teaching practices designed to promote the adaptive skills that contribute to the social competence and community acceptance of individuals with severe disabilities. (3 credits)

877.550 Inclusive Practices for Autism Spectrum Disorders (Required for Autism Spectrum Disorders)

This course examines the legal mandates for inclusive practices in public schools and barriers to successful inclusion for students with autism. Students will identify the process for determining the most appropriate educational environment and learn the critical steps in preparing students and teachers for inclusion. Models of inclusion and instructional modifications for the general education classroom will be reviewed. Students will learn to define the varying applications of inclusive settings, plan goals and objectives that reflect the inclusion goals, and implement strategies that lead toward inclusion. (3 credits)

877.551 Survey of Autism Spectrum Disorders (Required for Autism Spectrum Disorders)

Providing a comprehensive review of current information about autism and other pervasive developmental disorders, this course draws on research findings and clinical experience from a number of related disciplines, including psychiatry, psychology, neurobiology, and pediatrics. In addition to exploring theories of causation, developmental aspects, descriptive and diagnostic characteristics, and legal and social issues, students are introduced to the primary therapeutic and intervention strategies employed with students who have autism. The theoretical basis of, and empirical evidence for, the diverse traditional and nontraditional therapies that have been proposed for persons with autism are also explored (3 credits)

877.553 Classroom Programming for Students with Autism (Required for Autism Spectrum Disorders)

Students examine the design and implementation of effective classroom programs for students with autism who differ in age and level of functioning. The course topics include classroom structure and organization, group instruction strategies, educational assessment and IEP development, data collection, curriculum, instructional activities and materials, parent involvement, and staffing and support services. (3 credits)

877.555 Teaching Communication and Social Skills

This course examines the assessment and instructional strategies that have been shown to be effective in promoting the development of cognitive, language, and social skills by students who have severe disabilities, including those diagnosed with autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, or other pervasive developmental disorders. Participants examine the instructional adaptations needed to promote the development of cognitive, communicative, and social skills in students with severe disabilities, and review the relevant empirical literature. (3 credits)

877.810 Internship in Severe Disabilities: Induction

This internship provides supervised field experiences in the application of instructional strategies and curriculum adaptations needed to teach children with severe disabilities. Students completing the induction internship gradually assume leadership responsibilities in their placement setting and are expected to demonstrate fluency of applied instructional and behavioral skills. (3 credits)