ODESSA- The University of Texas of the Permian Basin now has an Autism Studies master's program up and running. With one in 88 kids being diagnosed with the disorder, it's a degree program the Basin desperately needs.
UTPB Professor, Dr. Jan Murdock, says, "Everybody is absolutely just clinging to or searching for more information. There's not a single person who won't be impacted by autism, either directly or indirectly. You will [be impacted] because it's growing so rapidly."
The program focuses on early intervention and the basics of where to go after the diagnosis is made.
Dr. Murdock adds, "What do you do with them? They're here. We know they've got a problem so how are we going to work with these children most effectively? What does research say benefits these children the most of all?"
The program takes roughly two years to complete and is done almost entirely online.
Alex Smith is enrolled. His three year-old son has autism. "We have to understand the child first, and then understand the disability. We have to separate the two," Smith said.
For in-state students, there's no tuition bill. The master's degree is funded by government grants. However, there is a catch.
"They have a payback commitment that they teach or work with young children for four years. They have nine years with which to complete that," Dr. Murdock said.
"If I can make one child improve a little bit then I've done my job and I think that's the goal of every teacher," Smith said.