autism specialist

If you are a caring and driven individual wanting to help children living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), then you may be well-suited for a career as a certified autism specialist (CAS). These professionals work with individuals with autism to help them learn essential skills needed to thrive with this disorder.

What is an Autism Specialist?

An autism specialist is an individual who works directly with children who have ASD. Since this neurological and developmental disorder impacts how people interact with one another, learn, communicate and behave, many children with autism need additional assistance in navigating the world around them.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventing (CDC), more children than ever are being diagnosed with Autism. In fact, today approximately one in 44 children are diagnosed with autism, creating a growing demand for these highly-trained and compassionate individuals.

An autism specialist will work closely with individuals with autism, providing them with valuable skills they need to thrive at home, at school and as part of society.

Not all children with ASD are the same and they each have their own unique behaviors and challenges. This is why hiring a specialist is so important. Children with autism can have mild or severe neurological challenges. They may have sensory processing issues or struggle with processing others’ emotions or using appropriate manners.

As a CAS, you will be trained in the best practices to handle all of these challenges so you can teach children with autism the best tools and practices to overcome the situations that challenge them the most.

What Does a Certified Autism Specialist Do?


Autism specialists provide therapy or assistance in a classroom, private counseling, or even at home. They specifically work with behaviors, sensory processing issues, social interactions and other challenges that may prevent the child from integrating into society and thriving at school.

After learning specific therapies and techniques a CAS typically acts as a type of “tutor” for a child with autism, providing them with a more individualized approach to their education and development.

They also work closely with individuals with autism to help improve communication with parents and family members and to educate others on understanding autistic behaviors.

Where do Autism Specialists Work?

Autism specialists most commonly work in educational settings such as public or private classrooms, or in special education programs. Certified autism specialists can work as specialized teachers or general education teachers who have specialized instruction for their autistic students.

A CAS can also work in therapist offices, medical settings and with non-profit organizations.

Some of these autism specialists also provide one-on-one tutoring for students in need, help with group sessions among autistic students or work in summer camps or after school programs that specifically cater to autistic students.

As a CAS, career opportunities are only growing as society continues to develop a better understanding of autism and as more and more children are receiving this diagnosis. With the right education and certifications, you can earn a great living as a CAS, all while helping enrich and better the lives of individuals with ASD.

How Much Do Autism Specialists Make?

While salaries can vary depending on the position and location, on average, autism specialists make about $28 per hour or $52,674 per year according to ZipRecruiter. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, if individuals with this certificate decide to take on a full-time special education teaching job, they can make a median salary of $55,840-$60,600.

Autism specialists who offer private tutoring and one-on-one instruction may receive higher compensation for their work.

Becoming a Certified Autism Specialist

If you are interested in becoming a certified autism specialist, then you will need to get additional education on the specific needs of an individual with ASD. There are some prerequisites to becoming a CAS. In addition to at least having a qualifying bachelor’s degree, you will also need two years of experience in the autism field, specifically in supporting individuals with autism.

After meeting these requirements, you also need an additional 14 contact hours of training. Part of this training will include learning the most effective therapeutic strategies necessary to help individuals with autism and how to apply them in real-world settings.

After this there is an exam. In order to be “autism certified” you need the specific CAS credential, which is offered by IBCCES. After passing the necessary competency exam, you can receive the title of CAS.

Here are the steps involved with this educational journey:

Step 1- Earn a Qualifying Bachelor’s or master’s degree from an accredited university, making sure you have two years of experience in the autism field.

Step 2- Complete the 14-hour continuing education specialty training program.

Step 3- Pay the required fees and submit your application for the competency exam.

Step 4- Taking the Autism Competency Exam through the IBCCES.

Step 5- Receive your CAS certification after passing and maintain that certification by renewing the certificate every two years.

By passing this certification examination, you will be able to start applying for jobs as a certified autism specialist and will be able to start helping those with autism and administering therapies such as ABA.

What is ABA Therapy?

ABA, or Applied Behavior Analysis, is a method of autism therapy that teaches functional behaviors and new skills. This therapy is backed by scientific research and is proven to help children with autism improve their social, language, cognitive and daily living skills.

This is one of the most widely used interventions for individuals with autism. According to Autism Speaks, ABA is a highly individualized therapy that looks different for every individual. As a CAS, you will learn how to apply the basics of ABA and cater it to fit the needs of each individual with autism that you work with.

If you have never seen ABA therapy in action before, you may have questions about how this therapy works and the benefits you can expect from this treatment plan.

How Does ABA Therapy Work?

ABA therapy focuses on teaching children, or adults, with autism the necessary skills they need to stop dangerous behaviors. The goal is to stop these behaviors instead of focusing on harmless, self-stimulatory behaviors, or stims.


There are actually a few different evidence-based treatments that fall under the ABA family. Since every person is unique, no one type of therapy will work for every individual. ABA typically includes a combination of these types of behavioral interventions:


  • Early Intensive Behavior Intervention (EIBI)- Therapy for children under 5 years old that is focused on developing functional skills and communication.
  • Joint Attention, Symbolic Play, Engagement and Regulation (JASPER)- This approach is for children between 1 and 8 years old that is effective for improving play and communication skills.
  • Early Start Denver Model (ESDM)- Designed for children between the ages of 4 and 12 and developed specifically with cognitive skills and communication in mind.
  • Natural Environment Teaching (NET)- This approach is for children between the ages of 2 and 9 years old and focuses on language, play, social skills and thriving in more natural environments.
  • Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT)- This therapy is play-based and is more child-initiated. This approach focuses on social behaviors, self-management and communication.


Remember, ABA is not a one-size-fits-all approach. As a CAS you will have the experience and understanding to use elements of these principals and create a customized approach that helps those you are working with get results.


The Benefits of ABA Therapy

Therapies under the ABA umbrella are immersive and effective interventions that can come with a number of outstanding benefits, including the following:


  • Improved Language Skills- ABA therapy will help teach children with autism how to communicate more effectively and help them make their needs known. This is one of the cornerstones of the ABA therapy process.
  • New Skill Acquisition- Children with autism who are struggling to master specific life skills can see great improvement with ABA therapy.
  • Positive Behavior Modifications- ABA therapy methods can help promote more positive behaviors in children with autism. Many parents find that with ABA therapy, their child with autism starts exhibiting more socially-acceptable behaviors.
  • Better Daily Skills- Many young people with autism find certain activities of daily living (ADL) to be quite challenging. ABA therapy makes it easier for children with autism to manage their daily life by teaching them functional skills including eating, bathing, and dressing.
  • Improved Social SkillsABA therapy can help children with autism learn important skills that can help them integrate better socially with their peers and in society.
  • Higher Executive Function- There are several issues that may prevent a child with autism from learning in a school setting. Issues with memory, flexibility and self-control can make learning difficult, and this therapy specifically targets these unique challenges.


With proven benefits like this, it is easy to see why so many caring and compassionate individuals are interested in a career as a certified autism specialist. By using interventions such as ABA therapy, you can truly make a difference in the lives of those with autism.


With more information on becoming a CAS and what it takes to be one of these highly-trained specialists, you may just find that a job in this field can be the rewarding career path you’ve been searching for.


If you are ready to work with the best ABA therapy provider in New York, New Jersey or Indiana, give us a call at (732) 402-0297. Our dedicated team is ready to help and we will treat you like family.

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