Autism Studies Minor

The autism studies minor is designed to educate students about the unique needs of persons with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and their families. Students receive instruction on evidence-based interventions for individuals with ASD and are encouraged to apply what they learn in a supervised practicum setting. The needs of families affected by ASD are explored through a student-organized community outreach event.

Students learn to think critically about issues related to ASD so they are prepared to keep up with the field as scientific advances are made. They also learn how to critically evaluate information about ASD and strategies for supporting individuals with ASD.

Throughout the minor and service programs, ASD is viewed as a form of diversity and emphasis is placed on addressing each individual as an individual with unique strengths and challenges. 

Field experiences include:

  • Mentoring in the on-campus transition classroom (a collaboration with Defiance City Schools)
  • Mentoring and tutoring with the ASD Affinity Program
  • Serving as a counselor for the Hench summer camp
  • Student-specific experiences such as the Hench Autism Studies Community Outreach Event. These experiences are designed by the instructor and student based on the student’s professional goals.

Benefits of the Program

Mentors and tutors work with students in the ASD Affinity Program multiple times per week, depending upon the schedules of the mentor/tutor and the student(s). Tutors focus primarily on academics while mentors work with students on both academic and social/life skills. Mentors/tutors also help students with executive functioning skills, social skills, and other barriers to participating in the college environment. This provides the students learning opportunities that exist outside of their books.

The Hench Autism Studies Community Outreach event, established in 2013, serves as another source of hands-on learning. Each year, students participate in planning and organizing the event which is held in April. This event is designed to raise awareness. More specifically, it gives students a unique opportunity to work with and to educate the local community about ASD and helps make families who are affected by ASD aware of the local resources. During the event, the program hosts representatives from local service organizations. It can be described as a cross between an expo and a family fun day. Students are able to use their training in a real world situation to learn and to help others.

Related Programs
The minor in autism studies may be combined with any major. This minor works well with education, social work, psychology, criminal justice, design (particularly 3D design), and exercise science.

After College – What’s Next?

Autism studies is a good minor for students seeking graduate training in:

  • Speech Language/Communication Disorders
  • Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Psychology
  • Physical Therapy
  • Occupational Therapy

Career opportunities for this minor include:

  • Educators
  • Social Workers
  • Medical Professionals
  • Psychologists
  • Counselors

In Their Own Words
“The autism studies minor offers different opportunities that will benefit any student. The classes are interactive and educational. The minor allows different learning opportunities with real life experiences and field experiences.”
Calli Bauer, 2017 Graduate 

"Being able to mentor and tutor students with autism is just as rewarding for me as it is for them. I am not only able to help them progress day to day, but we get to share those big moments that all college students accomplish, whether it is passing their first exam, or making the Dean’s list at the end of the semester. Every accomplishment is special as a college student, and being a part of that for someone else is even more rewarding."
Derek Lucas, 2017 Graduate 

"The autism studies program has allowed me to not only explore the topic but fall in love with it! Adding this minor has provided me with many amazing opportunities to explore additional career paths."
--Sandra Hubler, 2017 Graduate 

“What has worked best for me is having the opportunity to interact and associate with the students in the ASD Affinity Program. This is my second year being involved and I absolutely love it!"
--Nicholas Watkins, 2017 Graduate 

“The autism studies program has given me many opportunities to grow both in and out of my future field. I have learned so much about how to best help my future students, and I have also learned a lot about myself.”
--Lexxie Fowler, 2018 Graduate

“I am passionate about autism studies because it isn’t about becoming an expert on ASD: it is about understanding that, in a lot of ways, there isn’t one right answer. My goal is to teach students to think critically and inform others about what the evidence says, while also respecting the decisions that an individual with ASD (or his/her family) makes.”
-- Dr. Barnes.

Clarissa Barnes, Ph.D., BCBA-D
Associate Professor of Special Education and
Director of the Hench Autism Studies Program
Phone: 419-783-2355