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A Deeper Understanding of Autistic People

Develop your knowledge of the experiences of autistic people of different genders, barriers to diagnosis and the latest research.

A rainbow coloured infinity symbol which represents neurodiversity and autism acceptance.
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours
  • 100% online

    How it works
  • Included in an ExpertTrack

    Course 1 of 4
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    $39/monthFind out more

Understand the diagnostic process and barriers to accessing diagnosis

Recognising whether a person is autistic can be a key step in helping them access appropriate support and achieve self-knowledge.

On this four-week course from the University of Kent, you’ll explore the diagnostic process and the barriers many autistic people face in accessing diagnosis. You’ll learn what it means (and doesn’t mean) to be autistic to help you gain a deeper understanding of autistic people.

Examine the specificities of autism in women, girls, and other marginalised gender identities

We know that research has historically focused on autistic men and boys, and that this has impacted the way autistic people of all genders are viewed.

You’ll learn about the experiences of autistic women, girls, trans and/or non-binary people, and consider the impact that gender identity, and other inequalities, have on the accessibility of diagnostic and support services.

Unpack the social model of disability

The social model of disability holds that barriers within society are what make a person ‘disabled’, not medical conditions.

You’ll examine differences between the medical and social models of disability, and why these influence how autistic people are treated within services and society more broadly.

Discover new developments in research with and about autistic people

Over the four weeks of the course, you’ll be introduced to new developments in research with and about autistic people, as well as theories used to explain autistic differences.

Your learning will be guided by autistic and non-autistic academics at the University of Kent, who’ll share their expertise on what it means to be an autistic person.


  • Week 1

    An introduction to autistic differences

    • Welcome and introduction

      To begin, we ask "what is autism?" and think about the importance of the language we use. Image by Prayitno, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    • Neurodiversity and social communication

      In this activity you wil reflect on your own experience of autism, and we'll think about 'neurodiversity' and social communication

    • Similarities and differences

      We discuss what it's like to be autistic - what are the similarities and differences we see?

  • Week 2


    • Diagnostic pathways

      In this activity we consider diagnostic pathways and criteria. Image: www.freevector.com

    • Current criteria

      In this section we look at the current diagnostic criteria and the barriers to diagnosis. Image: "Criteria" by Nick Youngson, http://www.nyphotographic.com/ CC BY-SA 3.0 via http://pix4free.org/

    • Responses to diagnosis

      Here we think about the practical consequences of diagnosis

  • Week 3

    Gender and diversity

    • The role of gender and diversity

      Here we consider women, girls and gender diversity, as well as other forms of diversity and issues that arise particularly with regard to access to diagnosis. Image by Odolphie from Frome, England, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    • Barriers to diagnosis

      Which types of autistic people do we still need to know more about? Also, the role of co-occurring conditions and diagnostic overshadowing. Image by Matthew Paul Argall, https://www.flickr.com/photos/79157069@N03/, CC BY 2.0

    • Support

      In this activity you'll think about the support needs of autistic women, girls and other marginalised groups

  • Week 4


    • Theories

      We present an overview of theories that attempt to explain autistic differences, from older discredited theories to the most recent developments

    • Practical impact of theories

      Here we think about how 'theoretical' ideas translate into 'practical' experience. Image: Duke Innovation Co-Lab, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    • Conclusion

      We complete the course with a summary of our learning over the last four weeks

Prove you're job ready

Highlight the new, job-relevant skills you’ve gained and supplement existing qualifications with a hard-earned, industry-specific digital certificate – plus one for every course within your ExpertTrack.

  • Learn the latest in your chosen industry or subject.
  • Complete each course and pass assessments.
  • Receive certificates validated by the educating organisation.
  • Impress employers with learning outcomes you can add to your CV.
  • Make your career dreams a reality.

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Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explore the process and barriers to diagnosis
  • Reflect on the experiences of autistic women, girls and other marginalised gender identities
  • Discuss the latest developments in theories used to explain autistic differences
  • Explain why such different people can have the same diagnosis
  • Describe the differences between the social and medical models of disability

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone interested in developing a deeper understanding of autistic people.

It will be particularly valuable for autistic people, their family members, and professionals working with autistic people in education, health, social care, or other areas.

Who developed the course?

The University of Kent

The University of Kent, the UK’s European university, is one of the country’s most dynamic universities. Established in 1965, it now has 19,850 students studying at its various campuses.

About this ExpertTrack

Increase your understanding of autistic people through an exploration of autistic experiences in key areas.

Start learning today - free 2-day trial

After your free trial you can:

  • Pay $39 per month to keep learning online
  • Have complete control over your subscription; you can cancel any time
  • Work at your own pace and set your own deadlines at every stage
  • Only pay while you’re learning; the subscription will cancel automatically when you finish
  • Complete online assessments to test your knowledge and prove your skills
  • Earn digital course certificates and a final award that you can share online, with potential employers, and your professional network
  • Keep access to the content of courses you complete even after your subscription ends

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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