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Course Content

Course content

This programme was developed in consultation with the education, health and social care, and voluntary sectors, as well as individuals affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and is designed to facilitate the professional development of teachers and other related professionals who work, or wish to work, in this area.

Students explore the theories and practice underpinning ASD and can engage in associated experiential work. In line with the needs identified in the Northern Ireland Executive's Autism Strategy (2013-2020) and associated Action Plan, the course has been attuned to raising awareness, addressing issues specifically related to children and adults on the autism spectrum, and increasing knowledge and skills in relation to evidence-based interventions.

The aim is to enable the study of the theory and practice underpinning the specialist area in order to enhance understanding and ability to engage in research- and evidence-based practice. On completion of the degree, students will have:

  • developed a breadth of knowledge and understanding of the special needs of children, young people and adults diagnosed with ASD
  • shown evidence of critical reflection on their professional practice and be able to apply relevant research literature to both personal and professional experience
  • acquired a range of specialised practical skills which will enhance their ability to support pupils and students in a variety of settings
  • developed teamwork skills required to work in partnership, supporting and advising other colleagues.

Programme Structure

In order to be awarded the MSc, students must successfully complete six taught modules (120 CATS points) and a dissertation (60 CATS points).

Two exit qualifications are available: students may exit with a Postgraduate Diploma by successfully completing 120 CATS points from taught pathway modules or an Postgraduate Certificate by successfully completing 60 CATS pointsfrom taught pathway modules.

Core Modules (all 20 CATS points):

An Introduction to Research Methods: Children, Young People and Education (online)

This module will provide you with an understanding of differing perspectives that underpin quantitative and qualitative methodologies and is required preparation for your research dissertation.

Fundamental Elements of Behaviour Change (online and 1-day workshop)

We will focus on pedagogical methods and practices for inclusion that emanate from the scientific discipline of behaviour analysis. This includes a range of pedagogical methods, including intensive behaviour interventions, incidental teaching, contingency management, precision teaching, dealing with challenging behaviours, and integrating systems support. We will also introduce the practice of measurement of behaviour change and displaying and interpreting behavioural data.

Understanding Adults with ASD (3-day on-campus workshop and online)

You will be assisted to develop and extend your skills in understanding the needs of adults with ASD and their families. We will examine issues of identification, adult diagnosis, mental health, and transitions, as well as challenging behaviours, communication, and sensory issues, relationships, sexuality, self-advocacy, and neuro-diversity. We will consider the implications of an ASD diagnosis for the nuclear and extended family, for schools, homes and employment.

Understanding Children with ASD (3-day on-campus workshop and online)

You will be assisted to develop and extend your skills in understanding the needs of children (aged 0-18) with ASD and their families. We will examine issues of definition, identification, diagnosis and assessment, and early intervention, as well as communication, and sensory issues across childhood and adolescence. We will also consider the implications of an ASD diagnosis for the nuclear and extended family, for teaching and learning in school and home-based programmes as well as transitions between school and home.

Two optional modules may be chosen from the Educational Studies (MEd) programme.

Career Opportunities

Graduates have found their Master’s degree to be beneficial in the workplace when advising colleagues, influencing policy makers and supporting pupils and students. Others progress to Doctoral level studies and research.


Visit the MSc Autism Spectrum Disorders page on the Queen’s University Belfast website for more details!

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