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University of Kent

Understanding Autism

University of Kent via FutureLearn


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

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 is autism?
    • What do we understand about autistic people?
    • What is social communication?
    • Social communication difficulties
  • Strengths and challenges
    • Sensory issues and repetitive behaviours
    • Sensory differences
    • Making use of strengths and minimising challenges
  • The origins of autism, and co-existing conditions
    • Where have our ideas about autism come from?
    • Co-existing conditions
    • One thing or many?
  • What do we understand about autistic people?
    • Case studies
    • Advantages and disadvantages of a diagnostic category of autism
    • Bringing it all together


4.0 rating, based on 2 Class Central reviews

4.7 rating at FutureLearn based on 1052 ratings

Start your review of Understanding Autism

  • The course content seems aimed at people with very little previous knowledge of autism, and to that extent it provided a good introduction to the topic. The format was uninspiring: a succession of talking heads videos, with the same few people in th…
  • Stiof Mac
    Excellently structured. A course designed hand in hand with autistics to ensure the material is balanced, appropriate, not infantilising or doom-laden in any way. Course presenters and mentors actively engage with learners throughout. The content is…

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