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How Do You Choose An Autism Specialist?

November 21, 2023

As the autism diagnosis rates continue to rise, awareness of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and the need for an autism specialist also increase. An autism specialist is trained to provide the support needed to a child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and could work with the child in a school setting, therapy sessions, or other services or support the autistic child may need.

Practitioners who know how to implement applied behavior analysis when working with autistic children are especially needed in a closely related field, such as a special education teacher. But how do you choose the right autism specialist?

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What Are Certified Autism Specialists, and Why Are They Important? 

When a person earns their certification to become an autism specialist (CAS), their credentials are extended through the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES). This means that the certified autism specialists have received the training and education and are certified to provide many types of support and services that individuals with autism may need.

When a person has earned their certified autism specialist (CAS), they have gone through and met the continuing education standards and their master’s degree in a related field.

With their degree and certification, they will be able to:

  • work in different classroom settings, such as special education classrooms
  • work in hospitals where needed
  • own and operate a private therapy
  • work in various settings in mental health offices
How Do You Choose An Autism Specialist?

A certified autism specialist has plenty of career opportunities, such as:

  • occupational therapist
  • physical therapy
  • special education teachers
  • cognitive behavior therapy
  • early childhood educators
  • school counselor
  • speech and language pathologist
  • Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA)
  • medical professional
  • psychologist

How to Know Someone Has a Certified Autism Specialist Designation

According to the Pepperdine Graduate School for Education and Psychology, there are four steps to earning a certificate to become a Certified Autism Specialist (CAS):

  1. Earn a master’s degree in a similar professional field, meeting the graduation requirements
  2. Have a minimum of 14 hours of fieldwork and continuing education
  3. Pay and maintain the yearly registry fee associated with the certification
  4. Have the ability to pass the Autism Competency Exam

What are Appropriate Master’s Degree Programs/ Fields of Study?

There are quite a few fields of study that fulfill the master’s degree requirement in education, mental health, health, and support services:

  • teacher or other member in different educational settings
  • special education
  • health and human services
  • occupational therapy
  • physical therapy
  • educational psychology
  • early childhood and human development
  • speech and language pathology
  • early childhood education

Individuals may also earn this certification if they have a bachelor’s degree with at least 10 years of experience in their field of study.

How Do You Choose An Autism Specialist?

What Constitutes Continuing Education and Field Work?

The individual completing their certified autism specialist certificate must have a minimum of 14 hours of continuing education that can be acquired through:

  • work that is directly linked to the autism field
  • online programs offered through IBCCES
  • attending attendance
  • eligible college and university courses

What is the Autism Competency Exam?

The Autism Competency Exam has around 60 questions that follow along with the IBCCES Areas of Autism Competency, including:

  • Early childhood identification competency: this consists of the knowledge and ability of early identification, what inclusive education is and what it looks like, and the different developmental and discernable autism identifiers
  • Overview of autism spectrum disorder (ASD): having the knowledge and ability to recognize and diagnose autism spectrum disorder, knowing the different types of ASD, and services and support available to individuals and their families
  • Behavior competency: knowing different support and services available, different types of behavior modification, cognitive behavior support and services, positive reinforcement interventions and services, and factors that drive and influence various behaviors
  • Comorbidities competency: ability to recognize and understand previous comorbidities diagnosed alongside autism, and  knowledge of success strategies and services to support parents
  • Development of program strategies: knowledge of different types of Individual Education Plans (IEPs), assessment tools, treatment strategies, services and support for children transitioning to adult services, interventions, and plans for success
  • Ability to communicate with parents and caregivers: having empathy and understanding for parents and their experiences in each step of the autism journey

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Autism Specialists in the UK and Australia

Finding autism specialists in other countries, such as the UK and Australia, could differ from the process in the USA. Here’s a general guide on how to find autism specialists in these two countries.

The UK

Finding an autism specialist in the UK could be done through the following:

  • National Health Service (NHS): The NHS provides various services for individuals with autism. Start by consulting your GP, who can refer you to specialists like pediatricians, child psychiatrists, or clinical psychologists.
  • Autism Charities: Organizations like the National Autistic Society (NAS) can help you find specialists, offer advice, and connect you with local support groups.
  • Educational Institutions: Contact universities or research centers specializing in autism. They may have experts who can provide guidance or assessments.
  • Private Clinics: Consider seeking private specialists, such as child psychologists, developmental pediatricians, or speech therapists. You can find them through online directories or recommendations.


To find the right autism specialist in Australia, you can consider the following:

  • Medicare: Australia’s public healthcare system, Medicare, provides rebates for assessments and consultations with specialists. Start by consulting your GP for a referral.
  • Autism Associations: Organizations like Autism Spectrum Australia can provide resources and help you locate specialists, including developmental pediatricians, speech pathologists, and occupational therapists.
  • Telehealth Services: Especially in a remote area, you can access specialists through telehealth services. The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) may also assist with funding for these services.
  • Educational and Research Centers: Contact universities and research centers with expertise in autism, as they may offer diagnostic services and ongoing support.
  • Private Clinics: Consider private specialists for faster assessments and tailored services. Search online directories or ask for recommendations

In Conclusion

There are many career paths for certified autism specialists, and parents can feel comfortable knowing that if a person has earned this certificate, they have gone through extensive education and training. If a parent has any concerns or questions regarding their child’s development or behavior, they can always talk to their child’s doctor.


Q: What is an autism specialist, and why is it important to consult one?

A: An autism specialist is a professional with expertise in diagnosing, assessing, and providing interventions for individuals with autism. It’s crucial to consult one because they can offer specialized knowledge and tailored guidance for individuals with autism, ensuring the best possible outcomes.

Q: What qualifications and certifications should I seek in an autism specialist?

A: Look for professionals with relevant qualifications, such as a Ph.D. in psychology, a master’s degree in special education, or board certification in behavior analysis (BCBA). Additionally, they should have experience working with individuals on the autism spectrum and be licensed or certified in their respective fields.

Q: How can I find a qualified autism specialist in my area?

A: To find an autism specialist, ask for referrals from your child’s pediatrician, school professionals, or local autism support groups. Online directories like the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) website can also help you locate certified professionals.

Q: What questions should I ask when evaluating a potential autism specialist?

A: When evaluating a specialist, inquire about their experience working with individuals with autism, their approach to assessment and intervention, and the therapies or interventions they recommend. Also, ask about their communication style and how they involve parents or caregivers.

Q: What should I consider when choosing an autism specialist for my child?

A: Consider the specialist’s location, availability, and whether they accept your insurance or offer payment options. It’s also important to assess the rapport and comfort level between your child and the specialist, as a positive relationship is key to successful treatment.


Actionable Autism Training for Improving Outcomes

How to Become a Certified Autism Specialist

Autism Certificate Competency Exam

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