Autism and Developmental Disabilities

This concentration is appropriate for students with a special interest in meeting the educational, behavioural, and communication needs of students with autism spectrum disorders or other developmental disabilities (e.g., intellectual disability, cerebral palsy) and doing research in this area.

View the standard program prerequisites and additional information.

Required Courses (21 credits)
EPSE 449 (3) Educating Students with Autism
EPSE 512 (3) Critical Issues in Special Education
EPSE 549 (3) Seminar in Autism* (EPSE 449 is a prerequisite)
EPSE 574 (3) Principles of Behaviour Analysis *
EPSE 575 (3) Seminar in Instructional Methods for Persons with Significant Learning Challenges *
EPSE 576 (3) Assessment and Positive Behaviour Support in School and Community Settings *
EPSE 577 (3) Seminar in Assessment and Positive Behaviour Support * (EPSE 576 is a prerequisite)
Choose 3 credits of ECPS coursework from outside the SPED area

List of approved ECPS Courses

Seeking Behaviour Analyst Certification?
EPSE 593 Design and Analysis of Research with Small Samples and Single Subjects * is required as this elective.
Choose 3 credits of electives at the 400-level or above.
Seeking Behaviour Analyst Certification? EPSE 578 Ethics for Behaviour Analysts * is required as this elective.
Thesis requirement (6 credits)
EPSE 599 (6) Master’s Thesis ……………………………………………………………………………………….


* Meets the coursework requirements for Behaviour Analyst Certification.

Contact the program assistant for application or course registration information.

For more information about the concentration, contact Dr. Pat Mirenda or Dr. Joseph Lucyshyn.

Frequently Asked Questions

The MEd program was originally intended for practicing teachers with specific interest in autism/developmental disabilities. However, in recent years, individuals with experience providing intervention outside of school to children or adolescents with autism or other developmental disabilities have also been accepted. The emphasis of the MEd program is on advanced coursework and its application to real-life situations. The capstone experience for each student (in EPSE 590) is a formal presentation of a graduating portfolio. The portfolio provides evidence that the student has met coursework and application goals that are identified at the beginning of his or her program.

The length of time for the MEd depends on whether or not prerequisite requirements have been met and the number of courses taken per semester. Students with full-time loads of 3 courses per semester can complete the program in 4-5 semesters (15-18 months), while students with part-time loads (1-2 courses per semester) require a longer period of time.

The MA program is intended for students who plan to compete a PhD at some point, or who are interested in developing both knowledge and research skills. The main difference is that the MA program requires a thesis and associated research design and methodology courses, while the MEd does not. Among other things, you will need to have good writing skills to complete the thesis in a timely manner. The thesis is usually initiated after coursework is completed and requires an additional 12-18 months, depending on the student’s writing, analytic, and time management abilities. Most students in autism/developmental disabilities produce theses that are published in peer reviewed journals (found here, under “Student Projects”).

Yes, you can do this through both programs. See the course listings for the MA Program and the MEd Program, and find information about BCBA certification here.

Admissions requirements are established by the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Admission to BCBA-related graduate programs require a minimum 76% average (B+) in third and fourth year undergraduate courses.

This is a difficult question to answer. A student who has a marginally low GPA (for example, a B average instead of a B+), excellent experience, and excellent academic reference letters will be viewed differently from a student with a very low GPA (for example, a C average), minimal experience, and poor reference (or non-academic) letters. In the latter case, a student would not be admissible while in the former, he or she might be, depending on the number of spaces available and both the size and quality of the applicant pool for that year. Alternatively, the admissions committee might recommend that a student be admitted for a Qualifying Year, during which the student would enroll in senior undergraduate courses to (hopefully) bring the GPA up to the Faculty of Graduate Studies standard of 76% or better. This is only possible for students with excellent academic letters of reference (see the section on reference letters, below) and an excellent statement of intent as part of the application. Recommendations for a Qualifying Year are not common, but they do occur. The fact is that this program is quite competitive and always has more applicants than spaces, so students who do not meet all of the requirements are often denied admission.

The GRE is not required for admission to special education Masters programs but it is required for the PhD program. However, if a student completed his or her Masters degree in ECPS, the GRE is not required for doctoral studies in SPED.

If you graduated or are currently enrolled in a university outside of Canada in which English is not the primary language of instruction, you must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and achieve a passing score. Take a look at the Faculty of Graduate Studies website for information about the TOEFL and how to take it and information about other documentation requirements for foreign students.

If your application is competitive in every way (i.e., undergraduate GPA, statement of goals and background, references), the admissions committee will look at your transcript(s) to determine if you have completed the prerequisite courses or their equivalents.  If you have not, you can be admitted anyway but you will be required to complete the prerequisites as additional courses, early in your program.

No. Information about documentation that is required can be found on the Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies website.

Letters of reference are VERY important; they may make the difference between acceptance and rejection, especially in a year with many applicants. Your referees should be individuals who are able to comment on your academic preparation, originality, skills at research, industry, intellectual capacity, teaching ability (if known), and all-around ability. These are all qualities that are related to your potential for completing a graduate program successfully.
Ideally, your referees should be professors or sessional instructors in research laboratories, courses, or practica who know your work well and can comment knowledgeably. They can also be employers or supervisors who can attest to your ability to complete advanced coursework. You should not submit letters from friends, relatives, colleagues, parents of children with who you have worked (even extensively), or others who may know you to be a fine person but who have no direct information about your aptitude as a scholar. For mature students who have been out of school for some time, finding appropriate referees can be challenging, but you should do your best to identify individuals who can attest to your academic ability, not just your skill as a teacher or interventionist. Of course, you should also ascertain from the people you ask whether or not they can provide you with a strong letter and strong scores in the required areas of the reference form. For more information, see the information posted here.

Definitely not!!! Since this is a graduate program (not an introduction to the field), we very much prefer applicants who have had at least some experience teaching in schools and/or providing other types of instructional support to individuals with autism/developmental disabilities. In fact, if this is not the case, you should consider working for 1-2 years as a behaviour interventionist, resource teacher, or in another capacity before applying. Students should provide detailed information about their experience and background in their written statement of intent.

Yes, there are several. You might want to visit the Registry of Autism Service Providers maintained by ACT-Autism Community Training for contact information about local agencies that provide this service. You will have to contact them individually to inquire about job openings, but they are usually quite interested in hiring UBC graduate students.

Like reference letters, this section of the application is quite important, and your response should be as focused and specific as possible. General statements of the nature of “I want to be a better teacher,” or “I want to learn more about autism,” suggest that you have not really thought through your specific knowledge needs and goals. On the other hand, flowery statements of your deep commitment to children with autism are also inappropriate; we assume that you are committed to your work and we are more interested in your specific goals and interests. If you are applying for the M.A. program and already have an idea for research you would like to conduct as a thesis, you should describe it briefly, although this is not required. Of course, you should be careful to spell check your statements and be sure they are grammatically correct as well. You are limited to 500 words for these statements.

There is no guarantee of admission, even if you meet all of the requirements. Both of these programs are quite competitive, and we rarely accept more than half of all students who apply. Admission depends on how you compare to other applicants with regard to overall GPA and academic preparation, your statement of intent, reference letters, and background and experience. You should do your best to prepare an application that accurately reflects your skills and background and provides the admissions committee with solid evidence of your suitability.

Additional information and links about these and other topics can be found here. The application deadline is December 1 for admission the following summer or September; this deadline is firm.