Understand more about autism, including diagnosis, the autistic spectrum and life with autism, with this online course.

Understanding Autism
  • Duration4 weeks
  • Weekly study3 hours

Why join the course?

First identified over 70 years ago, autism is a lifelong developmental disability affecting how a person communicates with and relates to others, and how they make sense of the world. It is a spectrum condition; all people on the spectrum share certain difficulties, but their condition affects them in different ways.

Around 700,000 people in the UK are on the spectrum, 1 in every 100 people. There are no blood tests or brain scans that will detect autism - so what exactly are we talking about? Does autism actually exist?

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Skip to 0 minutes and 9 seconds JILL BRADSHAW: Does autism exist? My name’s Jill Bradshaw and I’m a lecturer in learning disabilities at the University of Kent. I work at the Tizard Centre and we do lots of research and we have lots of programmes that are around people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including lots of work with people who are on the autism spectrum.

Skip to 0 minutes and 37 seconds TONY OSGOOD: I think this will be really interesting if you’re touched by autism in all its many coloured guises. So if you’re interested in humans, be that as a parent or as a sibling, as an educator or someone living your life through autism, then I think this short programme will be really, really useful. Really interesting as an introduction. Because it aims not just to present the facts of autism, but to give a little bit of an insight into the experience of autism.

Skip to 1 minute and 5 seconds JILL BRADSHAW: Autism is a concept that we’ve been talking about for around 70 years or so. And currently, we think that around 1%, so one out of every 100 people will be on the autism spectrum. Damian, why do you think people should sign up for this autism course?

Skip to 1 minute and 25 seconds DAMIAN MILTON: I think this course gives a good introductory overview to the field of autism. And more importantly, hearing from people like myself the experiences of what it’s like to be autistic. I’d hope people take this interest further and look at all of these ideas in more depth, as well.

Skip to 1 minute and 51 seconds GEORGINA WATTS: I think I’d like people to do this cause really just so that they learn more about autism. Because these days most people have heard of the term autism. And because of that, they’ve got certain ideas about what autism is. So I meet people, I’ll disclose to them as autistic and they’ll go– oh, you’re just like my friend’s dog’s cousin’s neighbour who’s a five-year-old autistic boy who flaps all the time– OK, yes, I’m really just like that. And they don’t get it. And they make all these assumptions based on things like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime and they think that’s all the autism is.

Skip to 2 minutes and 24 seconds So I’d really like most people to just know a bit more and not make so many assumptions about autism.

Skip to 2 minutes and 30 seconds JILL BRADSHAW: Whatever your interest is, you’ll be really welcome to come and join us and find out

Skip to 2 minutes and 37 seconds where current thinking is around our big question: Does autism actually exist?

What topics will you cover?

  • What is autism… and does it exist?
  • Social communication skills
  • Sensory sensitivities and repetitive behaviours
  • Co-occurring conditions
  • Strengths and difficulties of people on the autism spectrum
  • Lived experiences of people on the autism spectrum

When would you like to start?

Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts. Find out more

  • Available now

What will you achieve?

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

  • Explain what autism is, and evaluate whether it really exists
  • Identify social communication skills and explain what happens if they do not develop as expected
  • Summarise knowledge of sensory and repetitive behaviours, and whether such behaviours are advantages or disadvantages
  • Explain why many people on the autism spectrum have co-occurring conditions
  • Identify the origins of strengths and difficulties experienced by people on the autism spectrum
  • Explore and discuss lived experiences of people on the autism spectrum

Who is the course for?

You don’t need any prior experience or qualifications to do this course but it might be of interest to practitioners in the field of autism, healthcare workers, people on the autism spectrum, and parents or carers.

It is ideal for anyone considering postgraduate study in the field, such as the PCert in Autism Studies at the University of Kent.

What do people say about this course?

I would like to thank all of the contributers who created this course. I have learned so much and you have completely changed my thinking. I now believe I can really be a positive support worker and enable the people I support who have autism.

Suzanne Jones
Support Worker

I was looking for a course to widen my knowledge and to also add to my Continued Professional Development portfolio and the Understanding Autism course certainly fulfilled both requirements. The course has certainly enabled me to be more open-minded about autism and how to relate to the strengths and challenges faced by my clients in their everyday lives.

Mavis Baker
Play Therapist

Who will you learn with?

Dr Jill Bradshaw is a Senior Lecturer in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and a Speech/Language Therapist -Tizard Centre, University of Kent. She has been working in this field for 25 year

I am An Associate Lecturer with the Tizard Centre and Lecturer at Newcastle University. A Chartered Psychologist, I have specialised in autism spectrum conditions for over 22 years.

Tony is a senior lecturer at the Tizard Centre, part of the University of Kent. He specialises in understanding and responding to challenging behaviour. He is interested in human service organisations

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.

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