What Does an Autism Spectrum Disorder Specialist Actually Do?

What Does an Autism Spectrum Disorder Specialist Actually Do?

What are the specifics and what does an autism spectrum disorder specialist actually do? Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) specialists are a specific type of applied behavior analysts. Applied behavior analysis (ABA) focuses on how environment and social situations affect behavior.

ASD specialists are specialists who work exclusively with those who have been diagnosed with autism. Their work can be performed both inside educational settings, residential centers, and even medical facilities. These specialists work to improve the mental, physical and social skills of their patients.


Responsibilities of an Autism Spectrum Disorder Specialist

An Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Specialist has numerous critical responsibilities when dealing with their clients, all geared towards one main objective: empowering clients to grow as individuals and improving their ability to function effectively in diverse social environments.

ASD Specialists often deal with a range of symptoms and behaviors characterized by the spectrum, each case necessitating a client-specific approach. Their job is to create tailored interventions aimed at managing these symptoms and helping individuals to cope with day-to-day situations.

One of their primary roles involves conducting comprehensive assessments to accurately identify the level and nature of an individual’s autism. They use various behavioral and developmental evaluation techniques to pinpoint where on the spectrum a person falls and what particular issues they are facing.

When working with individuals, an ASD Specialist may employ one-on-one therapeutic strategies such as cognitive behavioral therapy, speech therapy, or occupational therapy. This form of personalized attention helps address specific concerns, enhances communication skills, promotes independence and improves an individual’s overall quality of life.


Treatment is usually done by methods such as:

  • Games that are appropriate for age level, which also support individual needs
  • Sensory therapy
  • Social skills training
  • Physical therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Assistive technology, such as electronic or tablet use
  • Collaborative work with other specialists in the same field

Because each patient is unique, the healthcare provider can customize these activities to fit the individual needs, challenges, strengths, or age of the patient, as they are not one-size-fits-all.

Specialists at every level are expected to fulfill these responsibilities. Later in their careers, autism spectrum disorder specialists may assume greater responsibilities, such as developing treatment and lesson plans for other specialists to use, leading industry conferences, and even recruiting others to get involved with this special work.

What Are the Benefits of ASD Specialists?

ASD specialists have a very rewarding job, since they are giving back to a community with special needs in a positive and productive way. Improving their patients’ livelihood is just one of the many benefits of their career. Of the many other assets, some of the most notable include:

  • Specialized therapy sessions and activities: Because each individual has different needs, there are some areas that may require more focus than others.
  • Improving physical and mental health: To improve physical and mental health, individuals perform exercises that strengthen their bodies and develop their cognitive abilities.
  • Improving education and schoolwork: This includes assistance with handwriting and other core skills. When a specialist works with a child on his or her work at home, it is often reflected in their performance at school and their excitement in learning in general.
  • Decreasing challenging behaviors: Sometimes ASD patients have meltdowns. Specialists work with them to decrease the intensity of these behaviors and prevent future meltdowns through special methods of therapy.
  • Support: ASD specialists provide a great deal of support for both their patients and their patients’ families, which is critical for everyone involved.
  • Early detection: ASD specialists play a role in detecting autism spectrum disorder early on, which means therapy can begin, and a child can get the help he or she needs as soon as possible.


Autism Spectrum Disorder Specialists’ Role in Early Detection

Though they are not medical professionals and can’t make any medical diagnoses, ASD specialists are specially trained to detect early signs of ASD, through professional observations and conclusions. 

ASD specialists can observe and record young children’s behavior, and if they detect any signs of early autism spectrum disorder, it is up to them to refer the child’s family to a medical professional, who can then give an official diagnosis. Therapy for ASD can start promptly in home and educational environments once the child receives a diagnosis.


ASD Specialists in Educational Environments

Many ASD specialists work primarily in school environments, as special education teachers, teacher aids or general specialists. These positions involve interaction with students in both group and one-on-one settings. Students may play games, participate in physical and sensory activities with other students. Specialists will also help students with speech therapy, arithmetic, spelling, handwriting, and more.

Many schools also offer courses like “partners physical education,” and other partnered activities, where students on the autism spectrum are able to interact with those who are not. This is a great way for ASD students to become more adjusted in social situations. ASD specialists can plan lessons and games that are appropriate for all students involved, and monitor the interactions as well.


ASD Specialists in Residential Environments

Specialists for ASD are also able to make home visits for therapy sessions, for more a more personal approach. Children and adults alike can benefit from these visits, because they are often more personalized and less distracting. 

Patients can also experience less anxiety when they learn, play, and interact in their familiar surroundings, such as their homes. This is something that they may not feel if they were introduced to a new location.


ASD Specialists in Medical Environments

If unwell or wounded, a child or adult with autism spectrum disorder may need to stay in a hospital. In certain situations, ASD specialists may be asked to visit and interact with patients in a medical environment. 

If an injury or illness is severe enough, it may necessitate physical therapy for complete recovery. If this is the case, ASD specialists will be able to assess the patient’s needs and develop an appropriate plan to help them with physical therapy – whether it must take place in a medical environment, or if the physical therapy can be done at home.


ASD Specialists in the Applied Behavior Analyst Field

In addition to the roles they play in educational, residential, and medical environments, ASD specialists also play a big role in the applied behavior analyst field in general. ASD specialists are an important part of the field because they specialize and work with one special group, which gives back to the field as a whole.

ASD specialists also spend a portion of their time (some more significant amounts than others) interacting with other specialists, whether through continuing education, networking, or collaborating on lessons and therapy plans. When it comes to the duties of an ASD specialist, there may be a great deal to keep track of, but they are all very rewarding.

Qualifications and Training for Autism Spectrum Disorder Specialists

Becoming an ASD specialist requires lots of study, work, and training. Most positions require a master’s degree in applied behavior analysis, although there are some entry-level positions that only require a bachelor’s degree or a bachelor’s degree accompanied with other specialized training. 

The ASDS field is not as competitive as others, though, so attaining a degree is manageable. To qualify for a master’s degree, students must obtain a bachelor’s degree in applied behavior analysis or a related field.

Many employers also require a teaching degree or certification in order to become an official ASDS. During the journey towards certification, one should prepare to learn and apply their training to the following:

  • Child psychology
  • Teaching methods for special education
  • Crisis intervention
  • Special communication methods
  • Behavior analysis
  • Treatment methods
  • Theories related to autism spectrum disorder


Skills of ASD Specialists

Aside from education, ASD specialists must have experience working in clinical settings with individuals who have autism. The general skills one must have in order to be a successful ASD specialist include:

  • Passion about their career and the people they serve
  • In-depth knowledge about behavioral disorders, how to identify them and how to work with them
  • Excellent skills in communication
  • Friendliness towards clients
  • Creativity to use in games and activities, and for problem solving as well
  • Encouragement in all areas of therapy

Collaboration of Autism Spectrum Disorder Specialist and Parents


Collaboration between Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) specialists and parents is crucial to ensure the best possible outcomes for individuals with ASD. These collaborations involve ongoing communication, shared decision-making, and partnership in implementing interventions and strategies.

ASD specialists bring expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of ASD, providing evidence-based interventions and therapies. They can guide parents in understanding and managing the challenges associated with ASD, such as communication difficulties, social interactions, and repetitive behaviors. ASD professionals can create specialized intervention plans suited to each child’s specific requirements in collaboration with parents.

Parents, on the other hand, are the primary caregivers and advocates for their child. They possess valuable knowledge of their child’s behavior, preferences, and strengths. By actively participating in the collaborative process, parents can provide valuable insights to the ASD specialist, helping to shape the intervention approach and setting goals that align with their child’s individual needs and family dynamics.

Salary of Autism Spectrum Disorder Specialists

According to Payscale, ASD specialists’ salary is about the same as applied behavior analysts’. The median amount is $41,500, annually. Of course, this can change depending on the amount of years an ASD specialist has in experience, and they can expect it to increase after several years in the industry.

The entry level salary for an ASD specialist is roughly $29,000 – $30,000. Many specialists acquire promotions in their first few years and may make more based on their work description.

ASD specialists can also enhance their resumes by investing in additional possibilities that reflect their hobbies, interests, and working styles. One in particular are special needs physical trainers. Since physical fitness is one of the biggest parts of ASD therapy, getting certified as a special needs trainer through programs such as Certify Strong is a great option for ASD specialists to consider. This certification adds even more value to an already valuable career. 


Strong Education teaches personal trainers and service providers on how to adapt fitness and nutrition for children, adolescents, and adults with autism, Down Syndrome, and other disabilities through our online adaptive special needs certification course.

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