UMSL establishes Autism studies program

The University of Missouri–St. Louis has established the Certificate in Autism Studies program. The 18-credit-hour program is coupled with a master’s of special education program in the College of Education. The certificate program was approved last month by the University of Missouri Board of Curators and UM System President Gary Forsee.

Patricia B. Kopetz, the E. Desmond Lee Endowed Professor in Education of Children with Disabilities at UMSL, said the university now offers the only hands-on certification program of its kind in the St. Louis area that’s coupled with a master’s degree program.

On May 12, the Missouri General Assembly passed House Bill 1311, which reforms autism insurance in the state. Kopetz, who also directs the university’s Center for Research and Study of Disability, Education and Culture, said with the passage of the legislation a specialized and detailed program is needed now more than ever.

“These certificated students will directly and immediately impact families and schools in Greater St. Louis,” she said. “This program will provide the additional training and knowledge needed to serve students with autism spectrum disorders.”

Autism spectrum disorders are a spectrum of psychological conditions characterized by widespread abnormalities of social interactions and communication, as well as severely restricted interests and highly repetitive behavior. It effects 1 in 110 children and 1 in 70 boys. More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined.

HB 1311, which is awaiting Gov. Jay Nixon’s approval, will establish provisions requiring health benefit plans and insurance companies regulated by the state of Missouri to cover the services provided by licensure of behavior analysts and assistant behavior analysts to individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.

More than 35 students will be enrolled in the certificate program next month.

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