Master of Science in Special Education: Severe Disabilities with an Emphasis in Autism Spectrum Disorders

The MS in Special Education, Severe Disabilities concentration prepares teachers to work with individuals who require specialized instruction and intensive support, including students with autism spectrum disorders (or ASD). Candidates receive special training, learn classroom behavior management, and complete an internship.

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Faculty Lead
Tamara Marder, PhD, BCBA-D

Camilla Mika Simms

Sr. Academic Program Coordinator
Camilla Mika Simms

Master of Science in Special Education, Severe Disabilities with an Emphasis in Autism Spectrum Disorders

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*The School of Education plans to continue its academic offerings in a remote, online format through spring 2021.

Application requirements and deadlines
Master of Science in Special Education: Mild-to-Moderate or Severe Disabilities (including Montgomery County SET-IT Partnership Program)
Enrollment:Part-Time and Full-Time for Mild to Moderate; Part-Time for Severe Disabilities
Start Terms:Fall, Spring, Summer
Application Deadline: Rolling | April 1 for Montgomery County SET-IT Partnership Program
Feb. 1 for Part-time Master of Science in Special Education - Montgomery County School Collaboration Program (SET-IT)
Pre-requisite:Hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally or nationally accredited college or university.
Earned minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) in all previous undergraduate and graduate studies (including for incomplete programs of study and for programs still in progress).
Application Requirements:
Online application form
$80.00 application fee
Official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended
A 500-word essay discussing the reasons you wish to pursue a degree at Johns Hopkins University, focusing on your long-term goals and how your academic program will complement those goals. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses in your academic background, as well as any additional comments that will assist in evaluating your application materials. Essays should be submitted in a typed format on a separate sheet of paper.
Testing Scores:Applicants with a 3.0 cumulative GPA or higher in their most recently earned degree may be considered for admission without submitting a Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) Basic Skills Assessment Test.
For candidates intending to submit a standardized testing score for admission, please visit the Maryland Department of Education website for a listing of the specific tests accepted.
Letters of Recommendation:Two letters of recommendation from individuals who can speak to your work with children with disabilities.
Interview:A select number of Montgomery County SET-IT Partnership Program applicants will be invited for an interview and asked to provide a written response to a prompt and to "audition" by responding to classroom scenarios provided by faculty interviewers.
International Applicants:Admission is open to international students for the MS Special Education Mild-to-Moderate program only. Please visit the International Student Admissions for additional requirements.
The MS Special Education, Severe Disabilities (Autism) offers part-time enrollment only. Admission is not open to international applicants seeking an F-1 or J-1 visa for this program.
Tuition and fees

Tuition and fees are subject to change for ensuing academic years, and will be updated on the School of Education website accordingly.

Master's Degree and Certificate Programs
Part-Time & Full-Time Graduate (Face-to-face/Lecture courses)$833 per credit
Online Courses

*In addition, a $15 per credit technology fee will be assessed.
$882 per credit*
Full-Time Master of Science in Counseling with a concentration in School Counseling (Fellows)$882 per credit
M.Ed. Education in the Health Professions & Post-Master's Certificate in Evidence-Based Teaching in the Health Professions programs

**Classes in the Master of Education in the Health Professions (MEHP) or Post-Master's Certificate in Evidence-Based Teaching in the Health Professions programs are $1,292 per credit, with the exception of Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System employees, who pay $850 per credit (effective Fall 2020). The current rate of $700 per credit will remain in effect for the Summer 2020 term.
$1,292 per credit**
MS in Education (International Teaching and Global Learning)$48,000 per academic year
MS in Education Policy

36 credits/includes Introduction to Statistics course $46,800
33 credits (w/o Introduction to Statistics course) $42,900
$1,300 per credit/$3,900 per 3 credit course
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For me, the most important benefit was having a cohort of other teachers who are passionate about working with the population I was interested in. My professors also really wanted me to succeed, and they were all willing to explain anything I had questions about.

Mackenzie Brown, MS ’19

Master of Science in Special Education, Severe Disabilities with an Emphasis in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Program Description

The 36-credit MS in Special Education, Severe Disabilities/Autism prepares certified teachers to work with individuals who require specialized instruction and intensive support in areas of independent living and adaptive behavior—including students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

This is a high-demand credential requiring rigorous preparation led by nationally recognized faculty. Our mission is to prepare exemplary special education professionals who can provide quality educational experiences and serve as positive agents of change within educational environments.

Candidates receive special training and coursework in classroom behavior management and complete an internship supervised by mentor teachers and faculty instructors.

Note: This program does not offer admission to international students seeking an F-1 or J-1 visa.

Master of Science in Special Education, Severe Disabilities with an Emphasis in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Core Faculty

Tamara Marder Professional Headshot

Tamara Marder

Master of Science in Special Education: Severe Disabilities with an Emphasis in Autism Spectrum Disorders


Program Requirements

The applicant must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with an average of B (3.0 on a four-point scale) or above, or hold a graduate degree from an accredited institution. Official transcripts from all postsecondary colleges or universities; an essay or personal statement; two letters of recommendation; resume or curriculum vitae; and TOEFL or IELTS score (if applicable) are also required.

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

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

Internship Requirements

Students will be required to complete an internship as part of their master’s program. Prior to the internship, students will undergo a criminal background check. Students wishing to enroll in an internship course must complete an application through the School of Education’s Field Experience Office at least one semester prior to the one in which they plan to complete the internship. Students are responsible for completing all requirements prior to an internship and should frequently review the information shared on the Field Experience Office web page.



Pre- or co-requisite courses

Pre- or co-requisite courses (6 credits hours, may be taken elsewhere)

871.501 Introduction to Children and Youth with Exceptionalities

882.511 Human Growth and Development: A Lifespan Perspective

Required courses

Required courses (36 credits hours)

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

871.511 Instructional Planning and Management in Special Education

871.512 Collaborative Programming in Special Education

871.513 Applied Behavioral Programming

877.513 Education of Students with Severe Disabilities: Augmentative Communication Systems

877.514 Community and Independent Living Skills

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

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

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

877.555 Teaching Communication and Social Skills

877.810 Internship in Severe Disabilities: Induction

Special Education Elective

Course Information

Course descriptions, locations, and availability

Master of Science in Special Education: Severe Disabilities with an Emphasis in Autism Spectrum Disorders


Student Outcomes

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 for 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

Field Experience

In addition to your coursework, you will complete a 150-hours supervised field experience during your final semester with guidance from university supervisors, mentor teachers, and faculty advisers. This internship experience will include hands-on training within a specialized school-based setting serving students with autism spectrum disorders. Additional information is provided through the School of Education’s Field Experience Office 

Master of Science in Special Education: Severe Disabilities with an Emphasis in Autism Spectrum Disorders


How many credits/courses are included?

This 36-credit (12 courses) graduate degree program prepares individuals to teach students on the autism spectrum, ages birth through adult, whose educational priorities include specialized instruction and support in areas of communication, social/emotional skills, cognitive skills, and adaptive/independence skills. The master’s program includes completing these major components:

  • Prescribed series of courses within the Severe Disabilities/Autism program;
  • One applied internship in a setting which provides support to students on the autism spectrum; and

Two milestones (Comprehensive Exam, and Graduate Project).

Does this program lead to certification?

No, this program does not lead to state certification in special education. Please see MSDE for more information.

Where are classes offered?

Face-to-face classes (six courses) are offered at our Columbia, Md., building and are held in the evenings from 4:15 to 6:45 p.m., or 7 to 9:30 p.m., during the spring and fall semesters. Most students are in classes two nights a week during the fall and spring semesters. Summer courses are offered twice a week for two-and-a-half hours each night and meet for approximately seven weeks.

Online courses (six courses) are offered through the Blackboard learning management system. Course content is set up by sessions lasting one to two weeks. During each session, students are expected to complete readings and view videos and other media content. Students will have opportunities to participate in online learning activities such as discussion forums, group activities, student-led presentations, and other collaborative assignments.

How many internships are scheduled? Where do I do my internships?

Students must complete one applied internship in a setting that provides support to students on the autism spectrum. The purpose of this internship is to allow the student to demonstrate mastery of program content and leadership through application in real-world settings. Internships are completed in the school in which you are employed as long as you are serving an ASD population. Additional information regarding internship is provided through the Field Experience Office

Master of Science in Special Education: Severe Disabilities with an Emphasis in Autism Spectrum Disorders

State Authorization Disclosure Regarding Educational Prerequisites

Federal regulations require Johns Hopkins to disclose to students considering enrollment or enrolled in this program whether or not it meets educational prerequisites for licensure or certification by state.

Educational prerequisites for professional licensure or certification

Program meets licensure requirements in the following States: Maryland. Maryland has a licensure agreement that provides for reciprocity with Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, Vermont. The licensure agreement provides for reciprocity with conditions in the following states: Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Nevada, North Carolina, Wyoming, Wisconsin, Virginia, Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington.