What Is a Certified Autism Specialist & What Do They Do?
A certified autism specialist (CAS) is someone who has pursued an advanced certification in the field of autism. Typically, this is a trained professional who works closely with people with autism and can include people in the school district, mental health, and medical fields.
Anyone who works in the autism field providing services and support to people with autism can work toward their certified autism specialist certification.
Becoming a CAS proves your commitment to excellence within the autism field. It can often mean a higher salary and more opportunities for career advancement.
To become a CAS, you must have a certain level of schooling and experience, and pass a certification exam. Certified autism specialists work in a variety of environments supporting people with autism, and the CAS certification shows a higher level of competency.
Certified Autism Specialist (CAS)
Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder impacting 1 out of every 44 children in the United States. Highly specialized training offered through the CAS credentialing process can help a wide variety of professionals better support individuals with autism.
A CAS goes through high levels of schooling and a certification program to obtain an internationally recognized credential from the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES). There are a number of professionals who support and provide services to people with autism, and the CAS certification is open to these individuals.
The CAS certification can help to improve and promote the following:
- Communication with parents
- Development of IEPs
- Direct support for people with autism
- Better understanding of autistic behaviors
- A higher quality of instruction in the clinic or classroom
- Higher standard of care overall
- Recognition as a leader in your field
- Identification as being highly committed to supporting people with autism
A CAS works with people who have autism in a variety of ways in several different fields. Certified autism specialists often work in the educational field in schools and with students in a classroom setting. They can also work in clinics and therapeutic settings.
Career Options for a CAS
A CAS certification can bring with it higher than average salaries and more career advancement opportunities. The exact salaries and job opportunities will depend on your field and where you live. Salaries are higher in some states than others.
The mean annual wage in 2020 for special education teachers was just over $60,000. A CAS certification can put you at the higher end of the pay scale and increase your chances for advancement.
A CAS can work in a variety of settings, such as the following:
- Nonprofit organizations
- Therapist offices
- Additional educational settings
A wide range of professionals can choose to become a CAS. There are job opportunities for a CAS in the following careers:
- General education teachers
- Special education teachers
- Paraeducators and substitute teachers
- Speed and language pathologists
- Occupational therapists
- Behavior therapists
- Personal aides
- Family counselors
The CAS certification is a specialty certificate that can demonstrate a high commitment to helping people with autism. Therefore, it can expand your career options and enhance people’s trust in your abilities and dedication to the field. Obtaining a certified autism specialist certification can enhance your reputation in the field of autism and improve your credibility as an advocate.
CAS Eligibility & Requirements
There are some prerequisites to becoming a CAS. You must hold a bachelor’s degree and have at least two years of experience working in the autism field and directly supporting individuals with autism.
To enter into the CAS program, you must hold a master’s degree in one of the following areas:
- Special education
- Educational psychology
- Early childhood education
- Human development
- Occupational therapy
- Speech/language pathology
- Physical therapy
- Social work
- Or a closely related field
The master’s degree requirement is waived if you have at least 10 years of experience in the autism field as well as a bachelor’s degree.
How to Become a Certified Autism Specialist
There are several accredited programs available offering training to become a certified autism specialist. IBCCES offers an online training program that includes 14 continuing education (CE) online training hours, the exam, and the credential. As a CAS, you are required to renew your certification every two years.
The steps for becoming a certified autism specialist include the following:
- Sign up for the certification and training program online and upload your transcripts.
- Complete an online application and submit the necessary information, including CE certificates, proof of degree (when applicable), professional photo or headshot for identification, and professional license (when applicable).
- Perform your online training or upload approved professional CEs from the past two years that are specific to the autism credential you are seeking.
You can use a pre-approved CE partner or training provider for an additional fee. Otherwise, the training is included in the overall cost of the online CAS credential.
You can find a certified training partner on the IBCCES website. There are options for online learning, university training, and in-person programs.
- Take and pass the certification exam. For a CAS this is the IBCCES Autism Competency Exam, and it is offered in a secure online proctored format. The test is multiple choice and lasts 90 minutes.
- Submit your application for board approval.
- After it is approved, you will receive your certification and an official certification number, and inclusion on the international registration.
The training portion of the CAS is 14 hours, and the courses are typically offered in sequence. You can take the training in either English or Spanish.
You can finish your CAS certification in as little as four months. Courses can often be taken at your convenience as they are geared toward working professionals.
The CAS training hours focus on best practices to support and provide services to people with autism in the following areas:
- Overview of autism
- Early childhood identification
- Parent communication
- IEP and program development
- Comorbidities common with autism
If you work in the autism field and want to advance your knowledge and career opportunities, the CAS certification can be a great option.
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- Areas of Autism Competency. (2020). International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES).
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