Re-posted from The Speech Bubble SLP
Article by: Maureen Wilson M.S., CCC-SLP
In our field we work with a variety of people with a variety of needs. Over the years, at least for me, there has been quite an increase in the number of students I am seeing who are on the Autism spectrum. Now the reason why I have seen an increase I can’t tell you. I don’t know if has been simple the coincidence that these particular families moved to my school’s area or a number of other possible reasons. Some people may be over whelmed by the thought of having a caseload with quite a few students with Autism, but I am overjoyed! I feel I have learned so much about myself and the world around me from these students. As SLPs we tend to develop a soft spot for a particular age group or need. Students with Autism hit me right in my gooey soft spot.
Having a good sized caseload with a number of students on the spectrum has encouraged me to pursue lots of continuing education in the area since, well; I really didn’t get any in grad school. Yea, we talked about it in class from time to time, but it was never really hit on. There were not research projects to do on it, no big study that we had to break down and discuss. I think we had one lecture, one day. Now, this was to no fault of my professors. When they were out in the field Autism wasn’t discussed or really even seen much. Most high functioning individuals were written off as weird or having some mental disorder and therefore not seen by an SLP. Students with Autism weren’t very common in my clinic either. But I am getting off track. My point was that the lack of specific education on Autism understanding and treatment in my grad program made me have to go out on my own to learn all I could.
I have taken many a course on SpeechPathology.com about Autism and support strategies. When fliers came in the mail for courses, I signed up. I was even fortunate enough attend the Social Thinking conference last year when it came to my area. Side note, if you ever see it in your are GO! After all that I felt pretty firm in my understanding of Autism, the varying degrees, possible needs, and support ideas. However, back at my school my knowledge that I have worked hard to gain and maintain about this area went over looked because I was the SLP, not the psychologist or the social worker. Even though we often would all work with the same child and have the same thoughts and ideas about needs and treatment, my administration seemed to bypass me when these students came up.
This quite frankly drove me nuts. I needed something to show my administration that had sufficient knowledge of these students to be included in those conversations. I looked for colleges that offered Autism Special Certificates but they were out of my area ( by a few states ) and expensive. More researching into their programs showed that they would required courses that focused on many of the area that I had already taken oodles of CE hours on. Now, I am not saying that a college course is a lesser quality than a CE course, I am simply saying I had already taken many, if not all in some cases, of the types of classes that these programs wanted. So what to do?
After ASHA ( a total blast btw ), I was introduced to IBCCES aka the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards.
“The International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), was established to meet the credentialing needs of professionals that work with individuals with special needs. In 2001, IBCCES first established the industry standards for a Certified Autism Specialist. Each year these standards are reviewed and updated by our board of industry professionals including BCBAs, researchers from leading universities, state level Special Education Directors, industry leaders, as well as clinicians in the fields of mental health, Speech and Language Pathology, School Psychology, Occupational Therapy, and parents. Our Certified Autism Specialist standards are now used by organizations all over the world to ensure the highest quality of care and training for professionals in the field of Autism.”
IBCCES offers the opportunity to qualify for two possible certificates depending on their prerequisite standards. With my Masters Degree, years of working, and the amount of CE hours in the area of Autism ( you need at least 14 hours specifically in the area of Autism in two years ) I could fill out their application for their Certified Autism Specialist credential.
I filled out their application, entered my credentials, and my CEU hours and waited. Part of their application process is checking to see if you have a valid license and they wanted references ( which they did call and confirm ) of your work experience. I was able to use my CEU Transcript from ASHA to prove my hours. All that is done to allow you to qualify to take their Autism Competency exam. You must get an 80% or better to pass. Well, I passed!
So what does that all mean for me? It means I now hold a certificate that I can present to my administration to show that I have been evaluated and qualified to have the understanding and knowledge of a specialist in the area of Autism!
Now I am sure some of you are thinking, “Hey, wait a minute! That is not the same as college certificate!”. To those people, you are totally right. Let me share with you what having a certification from IBCCES is and is not.
- A certification stating that you have extensive knowledge and understanding in the area of Autism and are able to use and apply that knowledge to help create and improve support plans and therapy for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
- A credential that is recognized by many school districts and organizations.
- Something you will need to continue to get CEUs for ( in the area of Autism ) to maintain. The certificate is valid for a two year period. After that, you will need to prove at least 14 hours of CE in the area of Autism to keep your credential valid.
It is not…
- A college degree.
- A qualification in BCBA or as an ABA therapist.
So why should you think about investing in this credential?
– It will set you apart from other professionals.
– It demonstrates that you are driven to continue to improve your understanding of Autism.
– It has the potential to make you more desirable when applying for new career opportunities.
Another reason I really liked this credential was that you have to continue to get CE hours in Autism to maintain it rather than getting a certificate somewhere and being done. Not to say you still wouldn’t have to get hours to maintain your license but you wouldn’t necessarily have to get hours to keep the certificate. If the hours needed to get the credential is struggle for you, you can email the super friendly people at IBCCES and they can give you some places to look at for obtaining hours.
The area of Autism is a passion of mine. I love to learn more about it and how I can help support my students. If it is an area of interest or passion yours, I highly suggest you look into being a Certified Autism Specialist from IBCCES.