Certificate in Learning Differences and Neurodiversity​

Course Syllabus
LDN 641—Academic and Cognitive 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).

How do we ensure that autistic individuals have the academic skills to be able to attend and find success in high school and college environments? This course will address this question by providing an overview of evidence-based strategies to help students develop academic skills (i.e., reading, writing, mathematics) and the facilitators of those skills (i.e., learning/study strategies including time management, self-determination/self-advocacy, and independence). This course opens with a general overview of the challenges faced by autistic individuals as they move from high school to college including a discussion of the differences in the legal protections in these environments. Next, strategies for supporting autistic students in general education settings and providing them with individualized academic instruction will be discussed. Additional topics include fostering independence, developing learning/study strategies, promotion self-determination/advocacy, assessing college readiness, and leveraging technology to support autistic individuals during their secondary education experiences.

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
Understand the challenges autistic individuals face as they transition from secondary to postsecondary environments.3.3, 4.2
Describe how to support autistic individuals in general education settings.2.1, 2.3
Provide individualized academic instruction in reading, writing, and mathematics.3.4, 4.2
Understand how to foster independence in autistic individuals.3.4, 4.2
Assist autistic students in developing learning/study strategies.3.3, 4.2
Promote the self-determination and self-advocacy skills of autistic individuals.3.3, 4.2
Assess the college readiness skills of autistic individuals.1.2
Leverage technology (including assistive technology) to support autistic individuals as they transition from secondary to postsecondary environments.2.2, 3.4

WeekModule Topic and Readings

• Gelbar, N. W. (2017). Supporting college students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. In N.W. Gelbar (Ed.). Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Clinical Handbook. New York: Oxford University Press.
• Roberts, K. D. (2010). Topic areas to consider when planning transition from high school to postsecondary education for students with autism spectrum disorders. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 25(3), 158-162
• Szidon, K., Ruppar, A., & Smith, L. (2015). Five steps for developing effective transition plans for high school students with autism spectrum disorder. Teaching Exceptional Children, 47(3), 147-152.

Further Reading:
• Taylor, J. L., & Seltzer, M. M. (2011). Employment and post-secondary educational activities for young adults with autism spectrum disorders during the transition to adulthood. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 41(5), 566-574.
• Test, D. W., Smith, L. E., & Carter, E. W. (2014). Equipping youth with autism spectrum disorders for adulthood: Promoting rigor, relevance, and relationships. Remedial and Special Education, 0741932513514857.
• Westbrook, J. D., Fong, C. J., Nye, C., Williams, A., Wendt, O., & Cortopassi, T. (2014). Transition Services for Youth With Autism: A Systematic Review. Research on Social Work Practice, 1049731514524836.
2Supporting Inclusion

• Constable, S., Grossi, B., Moniz, A., & Ryan, L. (2013). Meeting the common core state standards for students with autism: The challenge for educators. Teaching Exceptional Children, 45(3), 6-13.
• Mancil, G. R., & Pearl, C. E. (2008). Restricted Interests as Motivators: Improving Academic Engagement and Outcomes of Children on the Autism Spectrum. TEACHING Exceptional Children Plus, 4(6), n6.
• Chapter 7 “Classroom Instruction: Effective Strategies for Whole-Class Instruction” from Kaweski, W. (2011). Teaching adolescents with autism: Practical strategies for the inclusive classroom. Corwin Press.

Further Reading:
• Fleury, V. P., Hedges, S., Hume, K., Browder, D. M., Thompson, J. L., Fallin, K., … & Vaughn, S. (2014). Addressing the academic needs of adolescents with autism spectrum disorder in secondary education. Remedial and Special Education, 35(2), 68-79.
• Koegel, L., Matos-Freden, R., Lang, R., & Koegel, R. (2012). Interventions for children with autism spectrum disorders in inclusive school settings. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 19(3), 401-412.
3Providing Individualized Instruction in Academic Subjects

• Brum, C., Hall, L. J., Reutebuch, C., & Perkins, Y. (2019). Reading Comprehension Strategies for High School Students With Autism Spectrum Disorder. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 52(2), 88-97.
• Donaldson, J. B., & Zager, D. (2010). Mathematics interventions for students with high functioning autism/asperger’s syndrome. Teaching Exceptional Children, 42(6), 40-46.
• Gately, S. E. (2008). Facilitating reading comprehension for students on the autism spectrum. Teaching Exceptional Children, 40(3), 40-45.

Further Reading:
• Ricketts, J., Jones, C. R., Happé, F., & Charman, T. (2013). Reading comprehension in autism spectrum disorders: The role of oral language and social functioning. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 43(4), 807-816.
• Simpson, C. G., Spencer, V. G., Button, R., & Rendon, S. (2007). Using Guided Reading with Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. TEACHING Exceptional Children Plus, 4(1), n1.
4Fostering Independence

• Carnahan, C. R., Hume, K., Clarke, L., & Borders, C. (2009). Using structured work systems to promote independence and engagement for students with autism spectrum disorders. Teaching Exceptional Children, 41(4), 6-14.
• Rafferty, L. A. (2010). Step-by-step: Teaching students to self-monitor. Teaching Exceptional Children, 43(2), 50-58.
5Developing Learning/Study Strategies

• Rogers, M., Hodge, J., & Counts, J. (2020). Self-Regulated Strategy Development in Reading, Writing, and Mathematics for Students With Specific Learning Disabilities. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 0040059920946780.
• Chapter 8 “Organization” from Kaweski, W. (2011). Teaching adolescents with autism: Practical strategies for the inclusive classroom. Corwin Press.

Further Reading:
• Rosenthal, M., Wallace, G. L., Lawson, R., Wills, M. C., Dixon, E., Yerys, B. E., & Kenworthy, L. (2013). Impairments in real-world executive function increase from childhood to adolescence in autism spectrum disorders. Neuropsychology, 27(1), 13.
6Promoting Self-Determination/Self-Advocacy

• Hart, J. E., & Brehm, J. (2013). Promoting self-determination: A model for training elementary students to self-advocate for IEP accommodations. Teaching Exceptional Children, 45(5), 40-48.
• Test, D. W., Karvonen, M., Wood, W. M., Browder, D., & Algozzine, B. (2000). Choosing a self-determination curriculum: Plan for the future. Teaching Exceptional Children, 33(2), 48-54.
• Wood, W. M., Karvonen, M., Test, D. W., Browder, D., & Algozzine, B. (2004). Promoting student self-determination skills in IEP planning. Teaching Exceptional Children, 36(3), 8-16.
• https://www.ou.edu/education/centers-and-partnerships/zarrow/transition-education-materials

Further Reading:
• Test, D. W., Fowler, C. H., Wood, W. M., Brewer, D. M., & Eddy, S. (2005). A conceptual framework of self-advocacy for students with disabilities. Remedial and Special education, 26(1), 43-54.
7Assessing College and Career Readiness

• Wenzel, C., & Rowley, L. (2010). Teaching social skills and academic strategies to college students with Asperger’s syndrome. Teaching Exceptional Children, 42(5), 44-50.
• https://www.collegechangeseverything.org/events/2018-media/Session-1I-College-Readiness-Guide.pdf

Further Reading:
• Chown, N., & Beavan, N. (2012). Intellectually capable but socially excluded? A review of the literature and research on students with autism in further education. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 36(4), 477-493.
8Leveraging Technology

• Francis, G. L., Duke, J. M., Kliethermes, A., Demetro, K., & Graff, H. (2018). Apps to support a successful transition to college for students with ASD. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 51(2), 111-124.

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 to 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 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.

A new module will be made available every Friday; assignments should be completed by the following Sunday evening, and responses to the Activator prompts by Wednesday to facilitate group discussion.

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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