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Florida State U: Professor sees 'exciting time' for autism teachers; no real increase

****Feb 25, 2019, Florida State University News: Demand for autism spectrum disorder teachers inspires new FSU programs Kelly Whalon, associate professor in special education at Florida State University, first landed a job teaching children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) after college, and she hasn’t looked back since. Whalon said it’s difficult to express her passion into words. She simply loves working with these “fun, smart” group of individuals and has been helping students do the same. Now, Whalon is looking forward to expanding her work at FSU with new educational opportunities starting next fall. Kelly Whalon is an associate professor in special education at Florida State University. Her research interests include interventions to enhance the language, literacy and social communication skills of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). (Photo11: Courtesy of Kelly Whalon) The FSU College of Education has created a variety of new programs designed to prepare students to work with children and adults with ASD. Students can participate in online and on campus master’s programs, as well as an online graduate certificate. These new opportunities are the brainchild of FSU faculty, including Whalon herself. She said that they were all fully invested in developing the programs in a way that would address the full spectrum of autism. Students will learn how to help individuals with ASD develop the social, behavior and language skills they need to express themselves effectively…. Anyone from teachers, speech-language pathologists, vocational rehabilitation specialists, medical professionals, behavior therapists or even family members can benefit from the training these programs offer. … Licensed special education teachers in Florida can qualify for autism endorsement on their teaching certificate after completion, which boosts their marketability and job opportunities. Master's students will also be eligible for this endorsement, as the certificate is part of the program. … “I think it’s an exciting time to be in this field,” Whalon said. “It’s challenging because we have to tell people that we don’t know all the answers, but we do know so much more than we ever have. The information we’re getting is exploding all the time.” … Whalon said that ASD is one of the fastest growing disability categories, which requires professionals who are well equipped to help those with it. Autism has only recently been considered a spectrum disorder. It was initially described as a kind of childhood schizophrenia resulting from cold parenting. The “refrigerator mother” concept was disproved in 1980, when the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) gave autism its own separate diagnosis. Autism wouldn’t be understood as a spectrum condition until the late 80s. What it’s known as today, ASD, wasn’t published in the DSM until 2013, when all the subcategories were combined into one umbrella diagnosis. Since then, it’s been defined by two categories: impaired social communication and/or interaction and restricted and/or repetitive behaviors. “The change we’re seeing in the numbers is a reflection of a better understanding of what autism is,” Whalon said. “That has definitely led to an increase in prevalence.” … As for what causes autism in the first place, it’s still unclear. “There’s a lot of theories out there for why it exists, but what we do know is that we’re doing a lot better job at diagnosing it and understanding it,” Whalon said. …


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