Preparing Educators of Students with Autism (PESA) Certificate Courses

Preparing Educators of Students with Autism (PESA) Certificate Courses

The fully online PESA certificate program includes four upper-level graduate courses. Courses emphasize research and theory related to strengths, interests, and the central social challenge in autism. Course topics focus on developmental trajectories; approaches to intervention; and individual, family, and professional perspectives. In guided weekly discussions, students critically analyze intervention practices and related issues in reference to current research. Courses also incorporate opportunities for students to investigate topics of individual interest.


This course will provide a foundation for understanding core challenges, developmental considerations, and implications of both for supporting students with autism. It will include a broad survey of research, issues and trends in the field; critical examination of intervention research with respect to the central social challenge; societal influences on autism challenges; and personal/cultural perspectives.

Understanding the social basis for communication and its relation to behavior is pivotal to addressing the challenges facing individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). You will explore unique developmental trajectories of social communication in ASD and assessment approaches that support individualized planning to build on strengths and interests. An exploration of intervention strategies will include approaches found to have established and emerging evidence of effectiveness.

This course will explore behavior as a function of communication. We will explore how behaviors, which may manifest as disruptive or challenging, address a communicative need for the learner. The purpose, rationale, and methods used in functional behavioral analysis and intervention planning will be approached by viewing behavior from the student’s perspective and with a goal to establish communicatively functional alternatives. The interactive learning environment will incorporate analysis of case studies, peer debriefing, and an observation, assessment, and planning project.

Successful completion of K631 and K633 is recommended and course enrollment is prioritized for students enrolled in the PESA certificate.

This course focuses on identifying meaningful outcomes, addressing family and individual priorities, collaborating across disciplines and with families, adapting inclusive settings to accommodate individual needs, building on strengths, and creating peer-supported learning opportunities.

Successful completion of K631 and K633 is recommended and course enrollment is prioritized for students enrolled in the PESA certificate.


You may take courses for a number of purposes:

  • As a strand of 12 credits for completion of the Certificate
  • Individually on a stand-alone basis or as an elective for another program
  • As partial fulfillment of requirements for IU’s Special Education master’s program, with or without teaching certification.

Typical Schedule of Offerings (Subject to Change)

To the extent possible, course offerings will be implemented on the following schedule:


  • K631: Introduction to Autism
  • K634: Preventing and Intervening with Challenging Behavior for Students with Autism


  • K633: Communication Development, Assessment, and Intervention in Autism
  • K635: Evidence-Based Professional Practice to Support School-Based Learning for Students with Autism