Autism Behavioral Studies Major

To meet the growing need for qualified, highly trained providers of autism services and treatment, Saint Joseph's University offers a B.S. in Autism Behavioral Studies. This program offers a rigorous and comprehensive undergraduate major focusing primarily on medically related services and treatment of autism through extensive classroom education and training, as well as hands-on skill development and practice for mastery of classroom concepts. Students complete this major with the option of obtaining a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst Certification (BCaBA).

The curriculum for the Autism Behavioral Studies Major is approved by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB), accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies in Washington, DC. Applied Behavior Analysis has been endorsed by many state and federal agencies, including state health departments and the U.S. Surgeon General. In order to receive BCaBA certification approval, the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) requires an approved Bachelor’s degree in a health-related field. With a Bachelor’s degree in Autism Behavioral Studies, completion of the required coursework and field hours, and successfully passing the BCaBA exam, students will obtain national certification as Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts (BCaBA), graduating with a highly marketable credential to work in any area of the United States.   

Need and demand

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of individuals with autism has risen dramatically.  Autism is now considered an urgent public health crisis, needing resources, funding and, most importantly, highly trained health professionals and therapists. Research has demonstrated that early, intensive intervention treatment services may greatly improve child development. Further, there is a significant need for adult services for individuals 21 years and older. As the rates of autism continue to climb and the field becomes more specialized, there is an increased demand for highly trained students who specifically focus on autism, especially in the use of evidence-based practices such Applied Behavior Analysis.

Students majoring in Autism Behavioral Studies will benefit from a comprehensive program of study that includes a rigorous focus in Applied Behavior Analysis and behavioral techniques, biological issues in autism, navigating medical services, community-based advocacy, managing the population of individuals with autism, health policy in autism, coping with the stress of a child or family member with autism, coping methods for providers of autism services, long-term care, ancillary services and other related topics. This comprehensive approach is unique and is highly desirable for students interested in focusing specifically on autism services. The Autism Behavioral Studies program is housed in the Department of Health Services, aligning the program with the medical field and behavioral medicine. The Department of Health Services offers courses in allied and public health, epidemiology, and behavioral medicine. These students go on to work in the field of autism as behavior analysts, occupational and physical therapists, speech pathologists, behavioral medicine specialists, health and hospital administrators, health policy makers and advocates and therapists, as well as other areas of medicine and public health.

Learning Goals and Objectives

Goal 1: Graduates of the Autism Behavioral Studies Program will know and understand the potential causes, symptoms and diagnostic criteria of autism spectrum disorders as well as the specific needs of individuals with autism across the lifespan and how they are treated.

Objective 1.1: Demonstrate knowledge of the current theories on the causes of autism spectrum disorders.

Objective 1.2: Demonstrate knowledge of the frequency, characteristics, symptoms, and diagnostic criteria of individuals with autism spectrum disorders.

Objective 1.3: Demonstrate knowledge of the nature of stereotypes, stigma, and discrimination of individuals with autism spectrum disorders.

Goal 2: Graduates of the Autism Behavioral Studies Program will know and understand the unique and specific behavioral needs of individuals with autism as well as both medical and behavioral approaches to autism treatment and related issues.

Objective 2.1: Identify the behavioral needs of children and adults with autism spectrum disorders and demonstrate the current behavioral approaches to treating behavioral issues of individuals with autism using Applied Behavior Analysis and medically related therapeutic services.

Objective 2.2: Demonstrate the ability to communicate orally and in writing in the language of the discipline and particularly on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis. 

Goal 3: Graduates of the Autism Behavioral Studies Program will understand, follow and demonstrate the ethics guidelines and professional codes of conduct for working with individuals with autism.

Objective 3.1: Demonstrate the roles and responsibilities of behavior analysts, therapists, allied health professionals and related staff, and demonstrate understanding of ethics guidelines in working with individuals with autism.

Objective 3.2: Graduates will act as responsible citizens, embracing personal and career objectives that honor and serve individuals with autism and their families. 

Goal 4: Graduates of the Autism Behavioral Studies Program will identify and understand the difficulties that families face in coping with autism and the impact of paying for autism-related services, as well as the social and economic impact on families and on society.

Objective 4.1: Identify the impact on parents, siblings, families, and friends of individuals with autism spectrum disorders and demonstrate how to best help these individuals cope with associated stress.

Objective 4.2: Identify the impact of political issues, including funding and approval of services, around autism spectrum disorders.

Goal 5: Graduates of the Autism Behavioral Studies Program will demonstrate how to collect behavioral data using Applied Behavior Analysis; to measure the progress of individuals with autism; to develop behavioral plans for individuals with autism; and/or to conduct research on individuals with autism or on related treatment plans.

Objective 5.1: Collect data on the progress of individuals with autism and develop behavioral plans; or collect data for the purpose of conducting research on a particular topic in the field of autism.

Objective 5.2: Identify and demonstrate methods to empirically assess and evaluate the progress of individuals with autism spectrum disorders for the purpose of developing intervention plans.

The traditional undergraduate programs include 40 courses distributed across three components: A General Education component divided into Signature Courses, Variable Courses, and an Integrative Learning requirement; a Major and Divisional component; and Free Electives. In addition to course requirements as specified in each area, students must complete one certified course in each of the following overlay areas:

  1. Diversity, Globalization or Non-western Area Studies,
  2. Ethics Intensive, and
  3. Writing Intensive. Overlay requirements are part of the forty-course requirement.

General Education Signature Courses

See this page about Signature courses. Six courses

General Education Variable Courses

See this page about Variable courses. Six to Nine courses

Required courses for the ABS major include:

  • One Biology or Chemistry Course with Lab

General Education Overlays

See this page about Overlays.

General Education Integrative Learning Component

See this page about Integrative Learning Component. Three courses

Select one of the following:
Introduction to Statistics
Psychology Course
PSY 101Intro Psychology Seminar3

GEP Electives

8-11 courses

Major Concentration

Eleven courses including:

Core Requirements

Select six courses
IHS 465Intro:Autism Spectrum Disorder3
IHS 466ABA and Autism Treatment3
IHS 467Social Skills Dev. and Autism3
IHS 331Statistics & Research Methods3
Select either Community-based Research and Advocacy sequence OR BCaBA Certification

Advanced Courses

Choose either Community-based Research and Advocacy sequence OR BCaBA Certification:

Community-based Research and Advocacy
IHS 468Resources &Advocacy for Autism3
IHS 469Adult/Transition Autism Serv3
IHS 470Senior Seminar3
BCaBA Certification
IHS 473Advanced Principles of ABA4
IHS 474Functional Analysis and Ethics4
IHS 472Seminar in Autism4

Area Studies

Select four courses from the following (at least two courses must be from Health Services):
Health Services Courses
IHS 468Resources &Advocacy for Autism3
IHS 469Adult/Transition Autism Serv3
IHS 471Special Topics in Autism3
IHS 491Internship in Autism Studies3
IHS 110Psyc Aspcts Illness & Disab3
IHS 248Hlth and the School aged Child3
LIN 150First Year Sem in Linguistics3
LIN 320Phonetics3
IHS 110Psyc Aspcts Illness & Disab3
IHS 248Hlth and the School aged Child3
PSY 120Lifespan Development3
PSY 121Child Development3
PSY 122Abnormal Psychology/Non-Majors (or Psychology majors course)3
PSY 201Biological Bases of Behavior3
PSY 222Neuropsychology3
PSY 226Psychology of Emotion3
PSY 237Abnormal Child Psychology3
EDU 155Foundations of Early Childhood3
or EDU 156 FE Found Early Child (preK-4)
EDU 241Social Motor Development3
or EDU 244 Socio-Emotion & Motor Develop
SPE 330Educ Studts w Low Incid Disabi3
SPE 340Literacy Intervention Strategy3