Earn a Certificate in Understanding Autism

The Understanding Autism Graduate Certificate Program is designed to prepare educators to support the complex needs of autistic students while keeping equity, social justice, diversity and accessibility at the center of their work.

Why Stonehill?

  • Online, on-campus and off-campus options available
  • Can be completed off campus in partnership with the South Shore Educational Collaborative in Hingham, Massachusetts
  • Courses taught by faculty with extensive experience and research specific to ASD
  • Experiential learning via practicum, research, partnership and community opportunities
  • Social justice mission that fosters graduates who think, act and lead with courage
  • Accessible and well-resourced campus

Off-Campus Partnership

South Shore Educational Collaborative

The South Shore Educational Collaborative (SSEC) in Hingham, Massachusetts, provides specialized educational and residential programs and services for students and adults diagnosed with a wide range of intellectual, educational, emotional, social, physical and/or medical challenges. Students may complete the Understanding Autism Certificate off campus through our partnership with the SSEC at their location in Hingham.

Curriculum Keeps Inclusivity at the Center

Stonehill's graduate study in inclusive education includes unique and effective courses, programs, and opportunities that foster innovation, transformation and leadership. Our curriculum keeps inclusivity central to how we prepare educators for schools, classrooms and community settings.

The 15-to-18-credit Understanding Autism Graduate Certificate features a selection of courses designed to prepare educators to create and lead environments that encompass a range of student needs, including those specific to autism spectrum disorder.

This course provides class participants with an introduction to autism and neurodiversity, a grounding in the neurodiversity paradigm, and exposure to autistic self-advocates and perspectives. The course will include an examination of the sociopolitical context and the resulting ideals, conceptions, assumptionst and biases in education, media, and community. Course participants will unpack educational discourse, diagnosis, labels, and the ethics of different educational approaches and ideals. The course will explore tenets of collaboration and the complexity of different organizational approaches.

This course will explore communication and competence, from the highly to the minimally or non-verbal autistic student, and the theoretical foundations of speech, language and communication. The core skills of communication, communication reciprocity, core skills necessary for social communication and literacy development will be a focus. The course will examine frameworks for effective communication strategies and approaches, as well as the role of communication in social understanding/interaction and behavior. The impact of cultural values and beliefs on communication will be examined. Collaborative and interdisciplinary models of support and service delivery be will and be guided by self-advocate accounts.

This course will review social understanding, stress, anxiety and trauma in autistic people. The course will explore the role of anxiety, stress, and trauma on relationships, self-regulation, health/ well-being and academic achievement. This course will stress intersectionality and explore gender/culture/race influences on understanding autism. Course participants will develop social supports and curricula focused on neurodiverse social behavior that help to mitigate the effects of stress/anxiety/trauma and develop resilience.

In this course, autistic behavior, including tenets of neurodiversity, sociocultural views of "normalcy," and self-regulation will be explored. Participants in the course will examine a range of strategies and systems to support, develop, actualize, and sustain positive behavior. Participants will examine sensory development and regulation, connections to behavior, stress, and learn de-escalation techniques.

This course explores quality of life considerations, measures, and supports for autistic students/persons. Educators will learn techniques to support autistic students moving from school to adult life, including developing self-advocacy skills, educator advocacy/allyship, family advocacy, person-centered planning, and transition plans. Ethical issues and philosophical challenges relating to sociocultural context, theories, and positioning, anti-oppressive education, and involvement/lack of involvement of self-advocates' perspectives will be explored in the development of pathways to higher education, career and technical education, employment, and independent living.

Optional field experience.

Studying Inclusive Education at Stonehill

Stonehill College offers graduate certificate, master's degree, teacher licensure and community education program options in inclusive education-related areas.

Schools today must strive to be inclusive environments, and educators in our program are prepared to be leaders in creating equitable spaces where difference is valued.

Graduate Education at Stonehill

Stonehill College's graduate inclusive education programs aim to prepare knowledgeable, reflective, caring and flexible educators who embrace learning, scholarship, community and advocacy in their work. Social justice and democratic education are at the center of our work and underpins all programs, courses and experiences. We believe education can disrupt systems and processes that perpetuate injustice and inequity and embrace diversity and individuality as strengths.

We advance our mission by modeling the creation of democratic spaces in the graduate classroom that reflect equitable, accessible and inclusive learning environments where students' voices and perspectives help to shape the construction and the provision of their learning.

Three tenets guide our program philosophy:

  • Social justice education
  • Democratic education
  • Anti-oppressive education

Program Outcomes

Our graduates

  • Foster care, connection and community with students, colleagues and families
  • Promote inclusivity, diversity and equity in educational spaces
  • Work to disrupt systems that perpetuate oppression and inequity
  • Embrace teaching practices that foster social justice and democracy
  • Lead by making education accessible for all learners
  • Elevate student voices and perspectives in education
  • Act purposefully to continue to learn and contribute to the profession

Rigorous Academics and the Support to Succeed

Stonehill’s graduate teacher education programs in inclusive education recognize the challenges graduate students face in prioritizing work, family, personal and graduate school commitments. Our Graduate Student Support, Access and Success (SSAS) Framework is designed to support students’ success from program start to finish.

Specifically, this approach provides:

  • A proactive vs. reactive framework for supporting graduate students’ variable needs within their program
  • Clear benchmarks for assessment of candidate readiness
  • Indoctrination to the field and to the profession

From the admission process to graduation, students have a clear understanding of both expectations and the support available to help them achieve their goals.

Contact Information

Duffy – 124/126

The office of graduate admission assists prospective students as they explore graduate and professional opportunities offered at Stonehill College. 

Meet the Director

Elizabeth Stringer Keefe

Elizabeth Stringer Keefe

Associate Professor of Education, Director of Graduate Education