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MSc Autism Spectrum Disorders

Course Description

Offered through the Centre for Behaviour Analysis, the MSc Autism Spectrum Disorders offers up-to-date post-qualifying training for education, social and health care professionals, and other frontline staff. Modules are short and succinct (20 CATS points) and delivered in blended format, i.e. in-class 3-day blocks of teaching supported by online content delivery. Modules can be taken individually for interest or professional development or taken as part of the Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma or MSc ASD.

Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are complex developmental disorders. Severity is based on social communication impairments and restricted repetitive patterns of behaviour (DSM-5). It is estimated that 1:88 individuals and families are affected by ASD (in Northern Ireland 1:56 school children are affected). Increase in awareness of ASD has resulted in the need for training in diagnosis, early intervention, educational provision and support services.

The MSc Autism Spectrum Disorders was developed in consultation with the education, health and social care, and voluntary sectors and individuals affected by ASD. While on the programme, students explore the theories and practice underpinning ASD and have the opportunity to 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 MSc Autism Spectrum Disorders has been updated and revised and attuned specifically to raising awareness, addressing issues specifically related to children and adults on the autism spectrum, and increasing knowledge of concepts and models of evidence-based interventions. The programme provides a range of specialised practical skills for teaching and supporting pupils and students in a variety of settings; the teamwork skills needed to support and advise colleagues; and, the knowledge and understanding of the special needs of individuals with ASD.

Why Choose ASD at Queen's?

◦As a prestigious Russell Group University, Queen’s is ranked 8th within the UK in relation to research intensity;
◦Education at Queen’s has been ranked 4th within the UK in relation to research intensity with 87% of the research undertaken within the School assessed as ‘internationally excellent or world leading’ (REF, 2014);
◦We provide a professional development opportunity for teachers and other related professionals who work or aspire to work in this specialist area;
◦The programme offers up-to-date post-qualifying training for education, social and health care professionals, and other frontline staff;
◦Modules are short and succinct (20 CATS points) and delivered in blended format, i.e. in-class 3-day blocks of teaching supported by online content delivery;
◦If you don’t want, or need, to study for the research dissertation, flexible exit qualifications are available (PG Diploma/ PG Certificate);
◦You may also undertake individual course modules for interest or professional development without completing a full degree.

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.

Short Courses

We've made it easy to study for a Masters module as a short course. If you would like to study for one of the modules in the MSc ASD, please contact the Education Secretary (tel: 028 9097 5923/ 5032, ) for advice.


◦An Introduction to Research Methods: Children, Young People and Education (compulsory)
◦Fundamental Elements of Behaviour Change (compulsory)
◦Understanding Adults with ASD (compulsory)
◦Understanding Children with ASD (compulsory)

Optional Module(s) - from the range on offer in the School (entrance criteria apply)

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!

(Student Profile)


Why did you choose to study for the MSc in Autistic Spectrum Disorders?
My main inspiration for choosing MSc in Autistic Spectrum Disorders was my nephew who has Autism. In my home country Zimbabwe some societies still view Autism in a derogatory way as being caused by some ‘supernatural powers’ and individuals with Autism are stigmatized.

What have you found most interesting or useful about the course?
What l found most interesting about this course was the use of guest speakers who were all experts in their field which made it easier to link theory to practice. Another interesting aspect of the course was the debate on Autism treatments.

What is your experience of the teaching support and student facilities at Queen’s?
The facilities are fantastic particularly the School of Education’s library which throughout the year was immune from the hustle and bustle associated with main libraries.

Where are you in your career at the moment?
At the moment l am tutor in Health and Social Care for an Establishment in Belfast.

What do you plan on doing after the course?
I plan to return to Queen’s for an EdD and in future to collaborate with a University in Zimbabwe to launch a degree programme in Autism for the Zimbabwe context.

Any advice to future students?
If you want to have a unique learning experience and an opportunity to develop academically then Queen’s is the place for you. Good luck!

Would you recommend the MSc in Autistic Spectrum Disorders?
Yes l would, because the course is well organized and the tutors provide excellent guidance and are very approachable.

(Student Profile)

Stacha Leslie

2039.jpg Why did you decide to study for the Autism Spectrum Disorders (MSc) at Queen’s School of Education?
I am working towards a Masters in Special Education in the United States, and wanted to expand my knowledge solely on Autism. I also wanted to study abroad for a year and Prof. Dillenburger partners with a few of my professors at my University in Texas, so it really just seemed ideal.
My background is in Special Education, but I would like my primary focus to be Autism. So it was necessary for me to further my education.
What is your experience of the teaching support/ student facilities at Queen’s?
It is incredible! Compared to the public university I attended in Texas, Queen’s operates like a private institution. The staff responds to emails promptly, the professors are very humble and approachable. Prof. Dillenburger is constantly sending out placement and volunteer opportunities, making sure her students get the most out of their education here. Also, the library is to die for!
What do you plan on doing after the course?
I’ll return to the United States and complete my Masters in Special Education, and through Prof. Dillenburger possibly complete a placement in Australia. I am also looking into interning with Autism on the Seas next autumn.
Have you any advice for future students?
The learning style is very open in this course. Where I was used to a very structured learning (i.e. teachers designating chapters to read each week, weekly quizzes, and bi-weekly exams), you are expected to do a lot of reading on your own - it really has improved my time-management skills.
Also, make the most of this opportunity! It’s so exciting to be in a new country, and Belfast is a nice, quaint city to ease you into the shock of being in a new culture. Everyone is very friendly and keen to have you visit. So take advantage, and explore…Have Fun!
What are your experiences of living in Belfast?
I really enjoy St. George’s Market…the food is amazing and it is really just the heart of Belfast in one place. City Center, the Christmas market… great places to shop and explore! You can really just hop on the train and travel all over the city for as low as 2 quid! If you’re a runner, the running trails are great! I especially love Ormeau Park and the Botanic Gardens.


Entry Requirements

A 2.1 Honours degree or above or equivalent recognised qualification in any subject discipline.Applicants with a 2.2 Honours degree or equivalent recognised qualification may be considered if they have two years of professional experience in an education, training or relevant context.Applicants to the programme should also preferably have one year of professional relevant experience and access to a relevant working environment. There is a language requirement for applicants whose first language is not English (IELTS 6.5 (taken within last 2 yrs) or approved equivalent. For IELTs a minimum score of 5.5 is required in all four elements of the test).

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