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The Open University

Understanding autism

The Open University via OpenLearn

Overview

Learn about autism, one of the most challenging long-term conditions of the century. This free course, Understanding autism, introduces the autism spectrum, how it is experienced by individuals and...

Syllabus

  • Overview and guidance
  • The autism spectrum
  • Moving around the course
  • What is a badged course?
  • How to get a badge
  • Acknowledgements
  • Week1Week 1: Introducing the autism spectrum
  • Introduction
  • 1 Your understanding of autism
  • 2 What is autism?
  • 2.1 Main characteristics
  • 2.2 The autism spectrum
  • 3 Sources of knowledge
  • 4 Methods for understanding autism
  • 4.1 Case studies and observational methods
  • 4.2 Experiments
  • 4.3 Brain imaging
  • 4.4 Longitudinal studies
  • 4.5 Twin studies
  • 4.6 Surveys and questionnaires
  • 5 Personal testimonies
  • 6 Brief history of autism: key players and milestones
  • 6.1 1940s: the pioneers
  • 6.2 Asperger revisited
  • 6.3 1960s: biological and socio-emotional theories of autism
  • 6.4 1960s: developments in the UK
  • 6.5 1970s: early research milestones
  • 6.6 1980s: an intervention to help children with autism
  • 6.7 1980s–90s: a new theory of autism
  • 6.8 1960s–2010s: prevalence of autism in the population
  • 6.9 1986 onwards: autistic people speak for themselves
  • 6.10 1990s onwards: the neurodiversity movement
  • 6.11 The autism spectrum in the 21st century
  • 7 This week’s quiz
  • 8 Summary
  • References
  • Acknowledgements
  • Week2Week 2: What is autism like?
  • Introduction
  • 1 Autistic traits and neurotypicality
  • 2 Social characteristics
  • 2.1 Interacting and communicating non-verbally
  • 2.2 Communicating with language
  • 2.3 Taking things literally
  • 2.4 Socialising
  • 3 Non-social differences
  • 3.1 Repetitive behaviour and routines
  • 3.2 Special interests
  • 3.3 Unusual sensory responses
  • 4 Reactions to stress
  • 5 Skills and talents
  • 5.1 Skills
  • 5.2 Exceptional talents
  • 5.3 Creativity
  • 5.4 Managing exceptionality
  • 6 Further dimensions of autism
  • 6.1 Intellectual ability
  • 6.2 Accompanying medical and psychological difficulties
  • 7 This week’s quiz
  • 8 Summary
  • References
  • Acknowledgements
  • Week3Week 3: Identifying and diagnosing autism
  • Introduction
  • 1 Early clues to autism
  • 1.1 Birth to 12 months
  • 1.2 12 to 24 months
  • 1.3 Can typical development plateau out?
  • 1.4 Parents’ reflections on their children’s behaviour
  • 2 What is diagnosis?
  • 2.1 The role of diagnosis
  • 2.2 DSM-5, ICD-10 and ICD-11
  • 2.3 How is diagnosis carried out?
  • 3 Experiences of diagnosis
  • 3.1 The first diagnoses
  • 3.2 Parental blame: fighting back
  • 3.3 Experiences of diagnosis: 1990s to now
  • 3.4 Experiencing diagnosis in adulthood
  • 3.5 After diagnosis
  • 4 Challenges for diagnosis
  • 4.1 Autism in females
  • 4.2 Diagnosing autism in different cultures
  • 4.3 The effects of stigma
  • 5 This week’s quiz
  • 6 Summary
  • References
  • Acknowledgements
  • Week4Week 4: Explaining autism: mind and brain
  • Introduction
  • 1 The psychology of autism: explaining social characteristics
  • 1.1 Theory of Mind
  • 1.2 False belief
  • 1.3 The Sally–Anne false belief task
  • 1.4 Theory of Mind and thinking literally
  • 2 Psychology of autism: explaining non-social characteristics
  • 2.1 Executive function
  • 2.2 Attention to detail
  • 3 Psychology of autism: an integrative explanation?
  • 3.1 Recognising emotions
  • 3.2 Empathising and systemising
  • 3.3 What do psychological theories tell us?
  • 4 The neurobiology of autism
  • 4.1 Brain structure and function
  • 4.2 Neurons, neurotransmitters and hormones
  • 5 The genetics of autism
  • 5.1 Autism in families
  • 5.2 Genes and chromosomes
  • 5.3 Autism genetics are complex
  • This week's quiz
  • 6 Summary
  • References
  • Acknowledgements
  • Week5Week 5: Addressing challenges: approaches to intervention
  • Introduction
  • 1 Perspectives on recovery and help
  • 1.1 Optimal outcomes
  • 1.2 Contrasting views on acceptance
  • 2 Interventions
  • 2.1 The importance of evidence for interventions
  • 2.2 Intervening without evidence
  • 3 Establishing the evidence base for interventions
  • 3.1 Principles of evaluation
  • 3.2 Pilot and small-scale studies
  • 3.3 Controlled studies and randomised control trials
  • 3.4 Problems in evaluating autism interventions
  • 3.5 The Research Autism database
  • 4 TEACCH
  • 4.1 Principles of TEACCH
  • 4.2 Evidence base for TEACCH
  • 5 The behavioural approach to intervention
  • 5.1 Applied behavioural analysis
  • 5.2 Evaluations and views of ABA
  • 6 Naturalistic interventions
  • 6.1 Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
  • 6.2 Evaluations of PECS
  • 7 Recent developments in intervention
  • 7.1 Pre-school Autism Communication Therapy (PACT)
  • 7.2 Evaluations
  • 7.3 Assistive technology
  • 7.4 Animal-assisted interventions
  • 7.5 Evaluations of animal-assisted interventions
  • 8 This week’s quiz
  • 9 Summary
  • References
  • Acknowledgements
  • Week6Week 6: Family life and education
  • Introduction
  • 1 Family life
  • 1.1 Sources of stress in families
  • 1.2 Multiplex families
  • 1.3 Adolescence
  • 1.4 Adulthood
  • 1.5 Family resilience
  • 2 Support for families
  • 2.1 NAS services
  • 2.2 Problems in accessing support
  • 3 Education
  • 3.1 Challenges in educational settings
  • 4 Educational support and choices: the mainstream and other options
  • 4.1 Educational plans and statements
  • 4.2 Mainstream and other educational choices
  • 4.3 Educational provision in regional and international context
  • 4.4 Home education
  • 5 This week’s quiz
  • 6 Summary
  • References
  • Acknowledgements
  • Week7Week 7: Adulthood
  • Introduction
  • 1 The transition to adulthood
  • 1.1 The importance of ongoing education
  • 1.2 Higher education and beyond
  • 1.3 Education, Health and Care Plan
  • 2 Living arrangements
  • 2.1 Residential support
  • 2.2 Support for independence
  • 2.3 Adult support in international perspective
  • 3 Adult outcomes
  • 3.1 Cognition, language and adaptive functioning
  • 3.2 Social life, independence and mental health
  • 3.3 What factors influence outcomes?
  • 4 Outcomes across the spectrum
  • 4.1 Timothy Baron
  • 4.2 Donald Triplett
  • 4.3 Wenn Lawson
  • 4.4 Optimal outcomes
  • 5 Addressing challenges in adult life: employment and relationships
  • 5.1 Employment
  • 5.2 Support for employment
  • 5.3 Relationships
  • 6 Addressing challenges in adult life: legal issues, health and ageing
  • 6.1 The criminal justice system
  • 6.2 Health and ageing
  • 7 The Autism Act and related legislation
  • 8 This week’s quiz
  • 9 Summary
  • References
  • Acknowledgements
  • Week8Week 8: Reflecting back, looking forward
  • Introduction
  • 1 Autism: what have you learned?
  • 2 The autism spectrum in the 21st century
  • 2.1 ‘When you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person’
  • 2.2 Neurodiversity
  • 2.3 One autism or several autisms?
  • 3 Future directions for autism research
  • 3.1 What are the priorities?
  • 3.2 Doing research well
  • 4 Autism in society
  • 4.1 Media portrayals of autism
  • 4.2 ‘Coming out’
  • 4.3 Making society autism-friendly
  • 5 Autism in a global perspective
  • 5.1 Autism in the 21st century in the UK
  • 5.2 Autism in Lower and Middle Income Countries
  • 5.3 Autism in Ethiopia
  • 5.4 Mental Health Pocket Guide and training videos
  • 5.5 Pooling resources and practices
  • 6 End of course quiz
  • 7 End of course summary
  • References
  • Acknowledgements

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