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Online Master's in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

#1 Online Master’s in Special Education

in the nation1

Renowned Faculty

The University of Kansas has been educating autism professionals for over 30 years

Choose Your Path

Behavior, Leadership and Secondary/Transition tracks are available

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which affects nearly one in 68 children in the U.S., impacts learning and development in unique ways.2 Special educators and related professionals who serve learners with ASD are trained to identify and apply evidence-based practices in accordance with students' strengths, interests, preferences and needs.

Put theory into practice.

The online autism education program is designed for current educators and related service professionals who need the skills and expertise to develop and implement programming for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This program prepares students to:

  • Understand and promote social skill development and interactions of learners with autism
  • Select, implement and evaluate evidence-based interventions for learners with ASD
  • Interact with and support families of learners with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Students will advance their understanding of the characteristics of ASD and how it affects development, formal and informal assessment methods, instructional strategies, and effective teaching practices for both students who require intensive and highly individualized education and those who need less intensive supports and services.

Important Dates

No Important Dates Currently Scheduled

Program Details

Program Details
  • 12 courses, 8 weeks per course, 36 credit hours
  • Complete in as few as 2 years
  • Learn from renowned faculty in a department that has set the standard in the research and practice of special education for over 50 years
  • No. 1 online Master’s in Special Education in the nation1
  • Complete your coursework anytime, anywhere through our innovative online format
  • Gain real-world experience through an extensive field-based practicum during your program
  • No GRE required for admission

View Admissions Requirements

What You'll Learn

In addition to your core curriculum, this program includes an intensive field-based practicum in your community, as well as a culminating project that demonstrates mastery of program competencies.

Choose from one of the following three elective tracks:

Behavior: Learn to conduct functional behavior assessments and design behavior intervention plans to support socially adaptive behavior for students with disabilities. Understand behavior function, factors that influence appropriate and inappropriate behavior, and function-based interventions.

Leadership: Understand the issues and trends related to administering special education programming for students with disabilities. Learn about the history of special education and past policy issues, current policy and practices (and criticisms of both), and develop a deep understanding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Secondary/Transition: Learn how to prepare secondary students and young adults with disabilities for the transition to post-secondary education, employment and meaningful community engagement.

For more detailed information on the topics covered in this program, view the course listings.

Career Outcomes

Graduates of the online master’s in autism spectrum disorder program serve as special educators, autism specialists, or behavior specialists at the local or state level. Outside of education, they may choose to utilize their knowledge by working with Applied Behavior Analysis clinics or pursue work as a therapist in specialty areas, which may include occupational therapists, speech language pathologists or therapists, or art therapists.

*This program is an online Master of Science in Education (M.S.E.) degree in special education with an emphasis in autism spectrum disorder. It does not lead to initial nor advanced licensure in special education in the state of Kansas.

Note: In order to enroll in this program, a bachelor's degree is required. No program can guarantee licensure. It is each student’s responsibility to determine the licensure requirements in his or her state and to apply for the licenses or endorsements necessary to his or her career goals. Our department staff and licensure officer can provide individual support during the application process to help you understand your state’s requirements.

Online Master's in Autism Spectrum Disorder Course Descriptions

All courses listed are worth 3 credits.

Please note: Course list and sequence are subject to change.

Core Courses

SPED 760 - Introduction to Autism Spectrum Disorder

An introductory graduate-level course on autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It addresses characteristics of children and youth with ASD, trends and issues associated with autism spectrum disorder, and effective practices and strategies for structuring, managing, and promoting social skill development and social interactions among learners with ASD.

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SPED 785: Application of Assessment Information for Exceptional Children and Youth

An analysis of information derived from assessment instruments and procedures appropriate to measuring the social and cognitive development of exceptional children and youth. Provides experiences in determining assessment data required in the development of Individualized Educational Programs (IEPs). Attention is also given to the design of informal assessment procedures, specific to the needs of exceptional children and youth. Experience is provided in the preparation and presentation of assessment data for use in instructional planning conferences. Prerequisite: An undergraduate or graduate course in educational measurement, and SPED 760.

SPED 790: Methods for Learners with Higher-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder

This is a methods course, with special emphasis on learners with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder. Particular attention is given effective practices and strategies for teaching, managing and promoting social skill and social communication development and proactive social interactions.

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SPED 800: Teaching Language and Communication Skills to Learners with Autism and Developmental Disabilities

Emphasis is given to milestones in normal language acquisition and variations from norms demonstrated by handicapped learners. Attention is also given to theoretical approaches to language training, formal and informal language assessment techniques, and instructional methods. Students design individualized instructional plans for incorporating language into the daily curriculum for handicapped learners. Prerequisite: SPED 425 or SPED 725.

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SPED 860: Education of Children and Youth with Disabilities: Autism Spectrum Disorder

This course is designed to prepare students to implement specialized alternative strategies for individualized group instruction. Methods for developing and implementing overall treatment/educational programs, planning or selecting curriculum/service models for programs, and developing instructional materials are emphasized. Procedures for managing classroom staff and service resources, coordinating educational programs with families, other service personnel and program support staff, and monitoring overall program effectiveness are addressed. Prerequisite: SPED 760.

SPED 854: Family and Interprofessional Collaboration in Special Education

This course is designed to provide knowledge and skills to implement federal and state mandates for special education and related services programs as they relate to building and maintaining relationships with families of students with disabilities, and developing effective school programs. It covers procedures for developing, implementing and evaluating (a) instructional accountability for special education students' participation in district and state assessment; (b) relationships between general and special education personnel and programs; (c) roles and responsibilities; (d) interdisciplinary team planning including families; (e) coordinating, educating and supervising paraeducators; and (f) general management responsibilities associated with instruction of children and youth with disabilities. Course topics will include collaboration in schools, community systems and families, historical perspectives of family life and school involvement, effective relationships between home, school, community, communication among professionals and with families, school-based programs, home-based programs, and multicultural considerations. Prerequisite: any of the following courses: SPED 631, SPED 731, SPED 632, SPED 732, or SPED 735.

EPSY 715: Understanding Research in Education

This course introduces the concepts and skills involved in understanding and analyzing research in education and related areas. The course provides an overview of basic, general knowledge of various research methodologies. Students should expect to study much of this material in greater depth through additional course work before being fully prepared to conduct independent research. However, this course should enhance their ability to locate, read, comprehend and critically analyze research articles and reports. Topics in the course include quantitative and qualitative methods and designs, historical and descriptive research and program evaluation. (This course fulfills the requirement of a research methods course in the first 12 hours of graduate study.)

SPED 871: Advanced Practicum with Exceptional Children Needing an Autism Spectrum Curriculum

This is an advanced practicum experience for the graduate student teaching children and youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The practicum is designed to provide intense, diverse and direct teaching experiences with children and youth who have learning and behavioral needs in the mild through moderate range and who have been identified with ASD, including those who may have Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), Asperger syndrome, autism and/or high functioning autism. Prerequisite: SPED 760, SPED 785, SPED 743 and SPED 775.

SPED 898: Master's Project

The student, with the guidance of a master's project/thesis committee completes execution of the project or thesis. The project/thesis is done as individual study of selected current problems in the field of special education to be adapted to the special interests and objectives of the students and conducted through extensive reading and research. In addition, the student completes the course with a presentation/defense of the project or thesis to his/her committee.

Practicum Electives

The Behavior Track

SPED 743: Functional Behavior Assessment, Positive Behavior Support and Classroom Management

This course provides a problem-solving approach and the framework for teaching and assessment strategies to develop pro-social behavior in students with disabilities and their typical peers in classrooms and whole school contexts. Students assess problem behavior, discover the functions of problem behavior, and learn pro-social alternatives in home, school and community settings. Prerequisite: SPED 631 or SPED 731, and SPED 632 or SPED 732.

SPED 843: Advanced Methods and Assessment: Strategies for Students with Social and Emotional Needs

This course is designed to introduce educators and related service professionals to prevention and intervention related to a broad range of antisocial, aggressive and behavioral problems. Approaches focus on understanding and addressing the precipitating factors related to inappropriate behavior, short-term approaches for immediate crises, and problem-solving strategies for longer-term change. Course content will include antisocial, aggressive and violent behavior, options for classroom interventions, school and system-oriented interventions, and ethical and legal issues involved in various prevention and intervention approaches. Class work will focus on literature, research-based intervention approaches and case work illustrating specific approaches and programs. Prerequisite: SPED 631 or SPED 731, SPED 741, and SPED 743.


To be determined in consultation with the Academic Advisor

The Leadership Track

SPED 756: Special Education Leadership

This is an introductory course in special education law and policy implementation. It is designed to provide school and district administrators, and other special education stakeholders, with a basic understanding of key points in the history of special education law and policy. It focuses primarily on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and its core concepts, with particular attention to Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). This course is designed to provide a working knowledge of IDEA's procedural requirements, the preferred practices associated with implementing the procedures in schools, criticism of these practices and their implementation, and ideas for addressing these criticisms in ways that promote more equitable and inclusive special education practices. Prerequisite: Degree in Special Education, School Psychology or related fields.

SPED 757: History, Context and Critique of Special Education

This is course is designed to provide school and district administrators, and other special education stakeholders, with a general understanding of the history of the treatment of individuals with disabilities and the development of special education law and policy over time. It foregrounds current issues in the post-Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) organization of the field, highlighting the goals and challenges of democratic leadership and civic professionalism in relation to special education. The course concludes with a final paper and online presentation examining how history, disability, difference and justice inform special education leadership, both in theory and in practice.

SPED 758: Appropriate Education and Least Restrictive Environment

This course is designed to give school and district administrators, and other special education stakeholders interested in special education leadership, a deep understanding of two core principles of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These are: (1) appropriate education, and (2) least restrictive environment. The course continues the same pattern established in the previous courses for this four-course program. It introduces these core IDEA concepts, features a week of criticisms of those concepts, and follows with a week on remedies to address key issues identified. The last two modules of the course focus on the Individualized Educational Plan and inclusive practices. The course concludes with a final project. Prerequisite: Degree in Special Education, School Psychology or related fields.

The Secondary/Transition Track

SPED 856: Transition Education and Services from Childhood to Adulthood

The purpose of this course is to provide a background in career development and transition education for persons with disabilities from middle school through adulthood. Emphasis is placed on IDEA requirements for transition services, career development and transition processes, transition services assessment, secondary special education curricular implications, career development and transition service needs, collaborative services in schools and communities to promote quality transition services, and issues and trends in transition education and services.

SPED 858: Assessment for Transition Planning

This course is designed to provide a review of psychometric principles and their utility as a foundation for quality assessment in transition assessment and planning for youth with disabilities. Formal and informal assessments across a range of transition planning areas are reviewed and evaluated. Skills in curriculum-based assessment, rating scales, situational assessment and functional assessment are emphasized. Prerequisite: SPED 856 or permission of instructor.

SPED 861: Blending Academics and Transition

The purpose of this course is to provide graduate students with research evidence of each of the components of universal design for learning within access to the general academic curriculum: multiple means of representation, expression and engagement. Prerequisite: SPED 856.

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  1. Retrieved on February 5, 2021 from
  2. Retrieved on September 26, 2018, from