Autism Initiative

Background & Mission


Utah Valley University is developing learning programs and support structures to serve those with autism and related spectrum disorders. Utah possesses the highest rates of autism in the nation and the university and community face the challenge of meeting the educational, social, and professional needs of this growing population.

Institutional Objectives

  • Provide educational opportunities for children and young adults
  • Develop academic programs to train and certify professionals
  • Cultivate partnerships through engaged learning and community education programs
  • Focus on skill development and professional training beyond high school graduation
  • Serve as a regional and national leader in community engaged higher education

Autism Working Group


UVU's Autism Working Group supports academic programs to train professionals with expertise in spectrum disorders and provide educational opportunities for young adults seeking to develop their education and apply their skills beyond high school graduation. UVU is increasingly being recognized as a resource for facilitating information exchange and otherwise supporting autism awareness and volunteer services.

Administrative Representative

  • Marc Archambault, Vice President, Development and Alumni
  • Brian Birch, Associate Vice President, Engaged Learning
  • Daniel Fairbanks, Associate Dean, College of Science & Health
  • David Yells, Dean, College of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Toni Harris, Assistant Dean, College of Humanities & Social Sciences
  • Bill Bridges, Director of Development

Faculty Specialists

  • Kris Doty, Assistant Professor of Social Work
  • Teresa Cardon, Visiting Scholar, Autism Studies
  • Tracy Golden, Assistant Professor of Social Work
  • Rodger Broome, Lecturer, Department of Emergency Services
  • Kristin Wright, Lecturer, Department of Secondary Education

Proposed Curriculum


The proposed Utah Valley University Autism Certificate Program (ACP) is a five-course sequence to prepare generalists to understand and work with individuals with autism and their families across the lifespan. Certified individuals will receive knowledge and practical experience to prepare them to work in a multitude of professional settings including:

  • early intervention
  • community agencies
  • education
  • peer group living
  • medical practices and employment coaching

A multi-disciplinary faculty and guest speakers from the community will engage students utilizing methods with an emphasis on interdisciplinary, culturally relevant, family-centered and lifespan perspectives. Students will engage in both service learning and fieldwork to enhance and extend the classroom experience and to prepare them for real world practice. Along with technical and theoretical rigor, a focus on professionalism, compassion and neurological diversity will be infused throughout the program.

The Curriculum includes a five course sequence

  • Course I: Understanding Autism
  • Course II: Autism across the Lifespan: Infants and Children
  • Course III: Autism across the Lifespan: Teens and Adults
  • Course IV: Autism Assessment and Treatment
  • Course V: Autism Internship

Courses are offered each semester. Students may choose to complete the coursework in five consecutive semesters one class at a time – or three semesters including summers) if they prefer to take multiple classes simultaneously complete the process within 12 months.

The proposed Autism Certificate Program will be housed in the Bachelor of Social Work program due to its unique, interdisciplinary emphases on person in environment, diversity and strengths based perspectives. Faculty from multiple disciplines outside of Social Work (including qualified professionals from community service providers) will be invited for collaborative teaching and guest presentations.

Annual Conference on Autism


The annual Conference on Autism features a variety of sessions designed to address the interest of students, professionals, families and service providers. The conference also provides informational booths sponsored by service and support vendors from across the state. Last year, over 40 presenters participated in the symposium, representing community members, professionals and educators specializing in research. The conference has grown to nearly 600 participants. This coming year we expect the number to increase based upon growing public interest.

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