Autism Spectrum Graduate Certificate and Related Studies

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Project ALLIES

Autism Language and Learning
in Inclusive Educational Settings




This following is for prospective and current graduate students in Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences (SLHS) and Special Education who may be interested in gaining knowledge and experience in autism as a scholar in Project ALLIES.

  • About Project ALLIES
  • Applying to Project ALLIES
  • Stipend Support
  • Project ALLIES Requirements
  • Post-Graduation Requirements
  • Project ALLIES Faculty and Staff

About Project ALLIES

Project ALLIES – Autism Language and Learning in Inclusive Educational Settings - is a 5-year personnel preparation project supported by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (Grant # H325K170053) (see Project ALLIES Abstract). The project co-directors are Drs. Betty Yu and Pamela Wolfberg. The grant began in 2018. The aim of Project ALLIES is to recruit and train 16 scholars from SLHS and Special Education yearly (8 from each discipline) to work collaboratively to provide high quality, evidence-based services to school-aged students on the autism spectrum with significant social-communication needs (especially those from traditionally underserved communities) in inclusive educational settings.

After successful completion of the program, Speech-Language Pathologists (SLP) scholars will meet the requirements for an American Speech-Language-Hearing Association-accredited Master of Science degree in SLP, California Credential in SLP Services, and the California state license in SLP. Special Education (SPED) scholars will meet the requirements for a Master of Arts degree in Special Education and the California Education Specialist Credential. Both groups of scholars will receive the Autism Spectrum Graduate Certificate issued by San Francisco State University.

Guiding Principles and Philosophic Foundations

The acronym ALLIES and the project logo (which is adapted from the Ashanti andinkra [visual symbol] for cooperation and interdependence) convey our commitment to creating an alliance among professionals, families and community partners in service of:

  • Building an inclusive community that promotes cultural, linguistic, and neurodiversity
  • Removing barriers to meaningful participation, communication, and socialization for children and youth on the autism spectrum and their families
  • Ensuring access to and success towards meeting high educational standards through intensive, coordinated, interdisciplinary, curriculum- and evidence-based instruction and intervention for diverse students with high-intensity social-communication needs
  • Understanding the core characteristics and challenges of learners on the autism spectrum
  • Collaboration with families and other team members for assessment and intervention
  • Naturalistic, culturally / linguistically responsive, and developmentally appropriate learning
  • Use of evidence-based practice through the evaluation of scientific evidence
  • Promotion of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), neurodiversity, and inclusion with typical peers in diverse learning and social contexts

The philosophic foundations of Project ALLIES are consistent with the professional practice guidelines put forth by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (2006; n.d.) and Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) (2009) which emphasize the need for interdisciplinary, family-centered, developmentally-based, and culturally / linguistically competent services that address the core challenges in autism.

Applying to Project ALLIES

Students who have been accepted to the Master’s programs in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences or Special Education are eligible to apply. Up to 16 students will be accepted every year.

Priority is given to students from communities that are traditionally underrepresented in special education and speech-language-hearing sciences and to students who show a strong commitment to serving individuals on the autism spectrum who are from traditionally underserved communities. Priority will also be given to applicants who present a clear, viable plan for completing the project requirements within the projected timeline of their Master’s program.

Applications for Project ALLIES are accepted each Fall semester of the project. Students who are interested in applying to Project ALLIES should contact Dr. Betty Yu in SLHS or Dr. Pamela Wolfberg in Special Education to express their interest or to obtain more information.

The four parts of the application package are available below:

  1. Project ALLIES Application Essay
  2. Project ALLIES Service Agreement
  3. Project ALLIES Student Data Report
  4. Project ALLIES Stipend Payback Agreement

Stipend Support

The majority (65%) of the funds for Project ALLIES is devoted to scholar support in the form of stipends. The stipend is meant to support student learning and to help cover costs associated with project activities. Each scholar will receive over $10,000 in stipends and funded activities over the course of their participation in the program.The stipends are typically paid to students over 2 semesters at the start of each Spring semester in Years 1 and 2. Part of the amount will be paid directly to students and some may be applied to other direct training costs on the students’ behalf.. Examples of costs include:

  • Registration fees for courses/practica
  • Travel to and from practica, service learning, and observation sites
  • Optional activities (e.g., conference registration, hotel, travel)

Project ALLIES Requirements

SLP and SPED scholars will be required to complete the Project ALLIES training activities in addition to the curricula for their respective Master’s degrees.

Before applicants are accepted into this federally funded grant, they must meet with a project director to develop a program plan in order to determine whether the student can complete these activities within a reasonable timeline.

Below is an overview of Project ALLIES requirements.

1. Coursework

Scholars are required to take 12 units of coursework (3 autism specific courses and 1 elective), which may be a part of or in addition to their Master’s coursework) and to complete each of these courses with a grade of B– or better. 

    • SPED 791: Nature of Autism Spectrum (3-units) Offered: Spring -Year 1
    • SPED 825: Communication, Behavior and Instructional Supports: Autism
      (3-units) Offered: Fall - Year 2
    • SPED 794: Socialization and Imagination: Autism (3-units) Offered: Spring - Year 2
    • Elective (3-units) Graduate level seminar with project director approval

Clinical Training

2. Autism Social Communication Clinic: Integrated Play Groups
(IPG) Program

(Taken once in the Fall or Spring semester, based on project director advisement)

The focus of this practicum is on supporting the social communication of children on the autism spectrum through inclusive peer socialization and play. The clinic is offered in cooperation with a local school and associated after school program where scholars gain knowledge and experience in facilitating Integrated Play Groups (IPG). 

The IPG model is an evidence-based practice designed to guide children on the autism spectrum and typical peers in mutually engaging experiences that foster socialization, play and imagination, and inclusion in peer culture. Extensions of the IPG model incorporate various forms of creative expression - e.g., visual arts, multi-media arts, drama, dance, Yoga - that are culturally valued and of high interest for various age groups (children, teens, adults). (for more information, visit

Note: For SPED Scholars, the added requirement of SLHS 711 is offset by reducing some of the requirements in SPED 794 that overlap. Alternative fieldwork may be considered based on project director advisement

3. School Internship / Student Teaching

SLP scholars complete a pediatric internship while SPED scholars( pursuing the Education Specialist Credential) complete a student teaching experience. This clinical training is conducted in a school setting where scholars will have the opportunity to work with at least one student on the autism spectrum on their caseload. Each scholar will be assigned to a placement with a qualified supervisor or cooperating teacher who has experience working with diverse learners on the autism spectrum.       

Note: SPED Scholars in the Master’s only program are not required to conduct Student Teaching; an alternative field experience will be identified based on project director advisement.  

Service Learning Projects

The purpose of service learning is to integrate meaningful community service with learning and reflection.

4. Family Partners Project: Respite Care

Understanding family perspectives is an important part of becoming a responsive and family-centered professional. This service learning project offers scholars an opportunity to be a part of the everyday lives of families by providing respite care. Each scholar will be required to provide 40 hours of paid respite care over 12 months for a family of a child identified on the autism spectrum. This service learning experience is offered in partnership with Levana Autism Support Services.

5. Transition Supports Project

Since autism is a lifelong experience, understanding issues affecting adults on the autism spectrum is essential for working with children and youth. This service learning project offers scholars an opportunity to gain knowledge and experience about issues affecting individuals on the autism spectrum over 18 years of age who are preparing for independent/community living, college, employment or other transitions after secondary school. Scholars are required to document at least 6 hours of service learning experience drawn from a variety of options for volunteering with young adults in the community.

6. Graduate ePortfolio

Scholars will be required to highlight their participation in Project ALLIES and their learning outcomes in their graduate ePortfolio. More information will be provided.

7. Learning Community Meetings

    Scholars will be expected to attend regular meetings that are typically held each month as part of the Project ALLIES Learning Community. These meetings are an opportunity for scholars to check in to discuss issues related to autism, to review updated research and clinical topics, to invite guest speakers, and to explore other topics of interest.  

Post-Graduation Service Obligation

Within five years after graduation, scholars are required to satisfy a service obligation in return for the scholarship assistance they received. SLHS and Special Education graduates must work on a full-time or a full-time equivalent basis within their respective profession (i.e., as a speech-language pathologist (SLP), an SLP supervisor, special education teacher, a postsecondary instructor or researcher in speech-language-hearing, special education or related services for at least two years. A majority of the work (at least 51%) that graduates perform must be related to the training that they received in the field of speech-language-hearing, special education, early intervention, or related services for children with disabilities. Part-time employment may be used to satisfy the obligation (for example, working half-time for four years to fulfill the equivalent of a two year obligation). At least once a year, graduates will submit a report of the following to the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs through the online Personnel Development Program (PDP) Data Collection System:

  • Contact information
  • Description of any employment that counts toward fulfilling their service obligation
  • Employer information
  • If needed, any requests for an exception or deferral from the service obligation

Project ALLIES Faculty and Staff


  • Betty Yu, Ph.D
    Associate Professor, Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences
  • Pamela Wolfberg, Ph.D.
    Professor, Department of Special Education (Autism Spectrum Graduate Certificate)

Graduate Assistants:

  • Angelina Lee
    SLHS Master’s Student – Project ALLIES Scholar
  • Gesean Lewis Woods
    Ph.D. Student, Joint Doctoral Program, UC Berkeley with SFSU

Course Instructors and Clinical Supervisors:

  • Alexander Blum, Ph.D. – SPED 791
  • Kathy Small, M.A. – SPED 825
  • Aine Vejby, M.A., CCC-SLP – Autism Social Communication Clinic/IPG Program
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