Certificate in Learning Differences and Neurodiversity​

Course Syllabus
LDN 634—Social and Emotional Supports for Autistic Students

This course is the part of the online professional certificate program in Learning Differences and Neurodiversity (LDN) offered by Landmark College, with specializations in “Executive Function,” “Autism Online and on Campus,” or “Post-Secondary Disability Services” (coming Fall 2022).

As prevalence rates increase and understanding of how to support autistic students improves at primary and middle school levels, increasing numbers of autistic students attend high schools, colleges, and universities. This course will highlight the social-emotional issues faced by autistic students in secondary and post-secondary educational settings. After a general overview of autism, including an exploration of the medical and neurodiversity models, this course will examine developmental challenges faced by autistic adolescents and young adults. The course will address programs and strategies that foster student success, including insights from Landmark College professionals working with autistic students. Specific topics covered include co-occurring conditions, identity, social-emotional support, transitions to adulthood, camouflaging, and issues specific to girls and young women. Course participants will explore practical applications of the theoretical constructs and models in autism to their own educational environments.

Three graduate credits will be awarded per course for students achieving a grade of 80% or greater.

This is an 8-week online course. Each week is a module that includes a variety of resources, readings, online discussions, and multimedia activities designed to engage participants in the course content. The course also includes 6 weekly online conferences (aka “synchronous sessions”) scheduled primarily in the evenings (Eastern Time). We will make every attempt to accommodate individual schedules, but participants should plan on attending at least 5 of the 6 conference sessions. The course uses Canvas as its Learning Management System. If you’re not familiar with Canvas or online course formats, there is a link to a set of tutorials on using Canvas available on the homepage of the course (once you log in). Registered participants will be provided with details to log on during the week before the start of classes.

The course objectives align with professional standards in the field of LD, specifically the standards for special educators established by the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). We have chosen to align to the “Advanced” set of Preparation Standards, as this higher-level set of standards more closely matches the level of content and expertise required of a graduate level course in the field. The CEC Advanced Preparation Standards are linked here, or can be found on the CEC’s website: www.cec.sped.org.

ObjectivesCEC Advanced Preparation Standards
Explain the different features of autism spectrum disorder and general strengths and challenges experienced by adolescents and emerging adults with this condition.1.2, 5.2, 5.3
Describe the history of autism.6.1
Understand the difference between a neurodiversity approach and a medical approach to autism.7.1
Understand the developmental processes and concerns specific to adolescents and young adult autistics.6.3
Understand issues of intersectionality that affect autistic students, including consideration of gender differences in the presentation of autism and how cultural differences can influence understanding of autism.2.3, 3.2, 6.3, 7.3
Understand examples of support programs for autistic college and university students.2.1, 3.3, 5.4, 7.2

1Introductory Matters and General Overview of Autism
• Self-introductions by students and instructor(s)
• What is autism?
• History, prevalence, risk factors
• Understanding “the spectrum”
• Using language
2Theories, Diagnosis, and Co-Occurring Conditions
• Diagnosis
• Co-occurring conditions
• Three theories—the positive triad
3Social and Emotional Challenges
• Social challenges and differences
• Monotropic mindset
• Pragmatics
4Transition to Adulthood and Identity Development
• Theories of identity development
• Autism and identity
• Creating a supportive environment
5Intersectionality and Gender
• Issues related to gender
• Intersectionality
• Relationships
6Transition to College
• Autism and anxiety
• The changing role of parents
• Orientation
• Case vignettes
7Community Standards and Controversies
• Code of conduct
• Conflict resolution
• Restorative justice
• Case vignettes
• Controversies
8Wrap-Up and Future Directions
• Future directions
• Work on final projects
• Course evaluation

Details of the module format are as follows:

  • Module Objectives—Each module will start by articulating the objectives for that module. The objectives will list anticipated learning of the topics that will be addressed in each module.
  • Activators [graded]—These are designed to help create a community of learners within this course, to understand each other’s perspectives, and to engage in a discourse. Activators will be posed at the start of each module as a query or a scenario to get us thinking about the topic as a group. You will post your own insights, observations, and respond to at least two other posts.
  • Learning Activities—Learning activities serve as instructional content for the module topics. (Example: viewing/listening to presentation slides; reading academic and “popular press” style articles, viewing videos from Landmark College and external experts, and more.)
  • Conferences [graded]—Conferences are the synchronous meeting portion of the course. During this time, we will address queries and points to ponder for discussion with the instructor and your fellow course mates. These live discussions will be hosted via Canvas Conference tool.

    Challenges [graded]—Challenges are activities meant to synthesize what you have learned in each module and apply those to your specific educational environment.

    Additional Resources—A resource repository on Social Emotional Support for Autistic Students will be created and added to by all members of this learning community. Recommendations to this forum is not graded, but regular contributions to this section can result in 5 extra grade points for the course.

In general, a new module will be made available every Friday; responses to the Activator prompts are due by Wednesday to facilitate group discussion, with Challenges to be completed by the following Sunday evening (i.e., nine days after the module opens).

The final course grade is determined by the following four categories of assignments.

  1. Activators—Most of the modules have graded Activators. You will post an original response and at least two responses to other student posts/comments. For full credit, each of your Activators should follow the specified directions for responses and be posted by the end of the day Wednesday of that week’s module. You should plan on responding to all of the assigned Activators. (6 in total; worth 20% of total grade)
  2. Conferences—During conferences (synchronous meeting via video conferencing) we will discuss questions and comments presented by course participants and instructors. Participants will receive a maximum of 12 points for each of the conference sessions. In these sessions, we are looking for your active participation and thoughtful engagement. There will be 6 conferences in all; you should plan to participate in at least 5 of these synchronous sessions (and will only be graded on 5). (5 of 6 in total; worth 20% of total grade)
  3. Challenges—These assignments will follow each of the modules and require students to think critically about what they’ve learned in the module and apply it to a hypothetical or real work/life situation. (6 in total; worth 30% of total grade)
  4. Final Project—This is the final project of the course and is intended to be relevant to your current or future professional role. The goal of this assignment is to apply the cumulative knowledge from this course to create an item of value to you in your job. Examples of the final project include: (1) presentation slides and associated transcript, YouTube video, text document, or other format intended for students, parents, or professional colleagues; (2) a sample lesson plan with a specific intervention; (3) a tip sheet for parents at your institution; (4) a student guide for using a specific academic support strategy; (5) student orientation program or workshop sequence for addressing academic challenges; (6) a case study detailing a plan of action with a particular student; or (7) other project of your choice. These are just examples, creative ideas for projects that tie directly to your professional work will be considered. Please consult with the instructor about your choice of projects no later than Module 6. (Implementation Project:  90 points; worth 30% of total grade)

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