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New National Professional Competencies for Teachers of Autism Released by Leaders in the Field

First-ever standards developed by network of teachers, trainers and school administrators will help U.S. schools meet growing needs of students with autism spectrum disorders.

(Vocus) August 10, 2009 -- The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) and the Autism Society announced the publication of professional competencies for teaching students with autism spectrum disorders at the Autism Society’s 40th National Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders in St. Charles, Ill. The competencies will be incorporated into CEC’s resource on highly qualified teachers, What Every Special Educator Needs to Know.

“As the incidence of autism has increased, universities and colleges created their own version of competencies to guide program development,” said Cathy Pratt, PhD, Director of the Indiana Resource Center on Autism and the Autism Society Board Chair, who worked on the competencies. “With the release of these competencies and through the leadership of the Autism Society and CEC, there is now a national standard that can be used for both course and program creation and for professional development in schools,” Dr. Pratt said.

These professional competencies contain the knowledge and skill base that professionals entering practice or assuming advanced roles should possess to practice safely and effectively. These competencies are based on evidence-based autism research and will be part of the CEC and CEC/NCATE accreditation that universities go through in designing their special education curricula.

“CEC is delighted to have collaborated with the Autism Society in developing a set of knowledge and skills that will speak clearly and unambiguously to the field,” said Richard Mainzer, Associate Executive Director of Professional Services at CEC. “Before being approved, the standards went through a rigorous process that included documenting the supporting literature and surveying practitioners. The result is the best of the best practices.”

Lee Grossman, President and CEO of the Autism Society, agreed. “These competencies will have tremendous impact in local schools,” said Grossman. “Parents can be assured that going forward their children’s teachers will be trained according to nationwide, evidenced-based standards.”

The competencies were drafted through a grant from the Autism Society and with support from the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI). The Autism Society’s Network of Autism Training and Technical Assistance Programs (NATTAP) conducted research and technical assistance in this process.

Family members and individuals on the spectrum were also involved in the development process. NATTAP will be integral in the implementation and training of the use of competencies in school districts. The competencies will also soon be part of the Autism Internet Modules (, a platform with 80 modules under development which will provide evidence-based content based on the competencies. The competencies also will be included in textbooks that will be used in universities classrooms.

About the Council for Exceptional Children: The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is the largest international professional organization dedicated to improving the educational success of individuals with disabilities and/or gifts and talents. CEC advocates for appropriate governmental policies, sets professional standards, provides professional development, advocates for individuals with exceptionalities, and helps professionals obtain conditions and resources necessary for effective professional practice. To learn more about CEC, please visit

About the Autism Society: The Autism Society, the nation’s leading grassroots autism organization, exists to improve the lives of all affected by autism. We do this by increasing public awareness about the day-to-day issues faced by people on the spectrum, advocating for appropriate services for individuals across the lifespan, and providing the latest information regarding treatment, education, research and advocacy. For more information, visit

About NCATE: The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) currently accredits 632 colleges of education with nearly 100 more seeking NCATE accreditation. NCATE is a coalition of 33 Member Organizations of teachers, teacher educators, content specialists, and local and state policy makers. All are committed to quality teaching, and together, the coalition represents over 3 million individuals. The U. S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation recognized NCATE as a professional accrediting body for teacher preparation.

About Autism: Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disability that typically appears during the first two years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum disorder” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause for autism, but increased awareness and funding can help families today.

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