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Understanding Autism

Understand more about autistic people from autistic perspectives with this CPD-certified course.

129,345 enrolled on this course

"Colours" by Connor Sparrowhawk: #JusticeforLB

Understanding Autism

129,345 enrolled on this course

  • 4 weeks

  • 3 hours per week

  • Accreditation available

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Introductory level

Find out more about how to join this course

Autistic people experience the world in ways that are different from non-autistic people. This includes differences in communication and sensory experiences. These differences can often disadvantage autistic people as they navigate the non-autistic world. All autistic people will share these key differences but this may appear very differently in each person.

Around 700,000 people in the UK are autistic, 1 in every 100 people. There are no blood tests or brain scans that can tell us if a person is autistic - so what exactly are we talking about?

Image: Connor Sparrowhawk #JusticeforLB

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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds JILL BRADSHAW: 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 31 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 0 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 19 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 45 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 18 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 25 seconds JILL BRADSHAW: Whatever your interest is, you’ll be really welcome to come and join us and find out where current thinking is.

What topics will you cover?

  • What is autism
  • Social communication skills
  • Sensory sensitivities and repetitive behaviours
  • Co-occurring conditions
  • Strengths and challenges of autistic people
  • Lived experiences of autistic people

Who is this accredited by?

The CPD Certification Service
The CPD Certification Service:

This course has been certified by the CPD Certification Service, which means it can be used to provide evidence of your continuing professional development.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

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...

  • Investigate autistic differences
  • Identify differences in social communication skills and understand why these differences occur
  • Summarise knowledge of sensory experiences and repetitive behaviours
  • Explain why many autistic people have co-occurring conditions
  • Identify the strengths and difficulties experienced by autistic people
  • Explore and discuss lived experiences of autistic people

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, autistic people, 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."

"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. "

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.

I'm an autistic self advocate and a PhD student at the University of Stirling.
I can also be found on twitter @autgeek

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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Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Buy this course

$99/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Subscribe & save

$349.99 for one year

Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 22 Aug 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

Learning on FutureLearn

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  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
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  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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