Why Mental Health Professionals Need Certification in Autism

by Robert Jason Grant Ed.D, LPC, RPT-S, ACAS

Several years ago, I received a referral to provide therapy to a young boy diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This was my first referral to work with a child with ASD. I quickly realized that my mental health license and my training in play therapy were missing something to fully and effectively work with this child and his family. I began searching for established ASD treatments I could learn and incorporate into my work with this young person and other clients struggling with similar issues. Along this journey I eventually integrated models and evidence-based practices to create a protocol for mental health therapists and especially play therapists called AutPlay® Therapy. This was satisfying in my individual clinical work, but I still felt somewhat isolated in terms of a profession identity and accountability regarding my work with ASD.

It was at this point I discovered the Certified Autism Specialist (CAS) credential through the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES). It did not take long for me to be both impressed and excited to connect with an organization and a credential that would support me in my work with children and families affected by ASD. For Licensed Mental Health Professionals, it is imperative that we have a professional identity and accountability when working with ASD. Mental health professionals working with the ASD population should be connected to an organization that provides standards, continuing education requirements, and support.

IBCCES defines a Certified Autism Specialist (CAS) as a professional who is responsible for the support and/or services provided to an individual on the autism spectrum that directly relates to the professionals’ specific scope of practice. A CAS credential is granted to educators and licensed professionals who work with individuals with special needs and who meet the requirements for credentialing. Being a part of an organization that has an ASD focus and supports mental health professionals in their work with ASD has been highly valuable to me and to many other mental health professionals. The uniqueness and ever-changing information about ASD require mental health professionals to be consistently upgrading their knowledge and training and staying focused on best practices. I am not sure how I would have been able to successfully do this without having been connected to IBCCES.

The standards, continuing education, and resources provided through IBCCES have given me the opportunity to enhance my skills and abilities related to ASD therapy each year. It was just last year that I completed training to become and Advanced Certified Autism Specialist (ACAS). My personal experience with this credential and organization have been positive and rewarding. The most rewarding has been the learning and growth opportunities that have resulted in being a more knowledgeable therapist for my clients and seeing them grow and achieve. I certainly have been able to dispel the isolation I felt early on in my career and feel I have a professional organization I can contact at any time for guidance and networking.

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