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Understanding the autism spectrum

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Autism is a spectrum of conditions characterised by social, communicative, sensory-motor and cognitive difficulties. The social and psychological consequences can be profound. This 20-week course provides an accessible introduction to the autistic spectrum, principles and problems of diagnosis, and biological and psychological approaches to explaining underlying causes. Approaches to care, education and therapy, and issues concerning social support, legal rights and wellbeing of individuals on the autism spectrum are explored. The course is especially relevant to educators, learning support workers and healthcare professionals; parents, siblings, care-givers and able people on the autism spectrum; and all those with an interest in the psychological and health sciences.

Register for the course


Start End Fee Register
01 Nov 2014 See description
£290.00
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Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in November 2016.
Start End Fee Register
01 Nov 2014 See description
£290.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in November 2016.
Start End Fee Register
01 Nov 2014 See description
£680.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in November 2016.
Start End Fee Register
01 Nov 2014 See description
£290.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in November 2016.
Start End Fee Register
01 Nov 2014 See description
£680.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in November 2016.
Start End Fee Register
01 Nov 2014 See description
£658.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in November 2016.
Start End Fee Register
01 Nov 2014 See description
£290.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in November 2016.
Start End Fee Register
01 Nov 2014 See description
£580.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in November 2016.
Start End Fee Register
01 Nov 2014 See description
£658.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in November 2016.
Start End Fee Register
01 Nov 2014 See description
£658.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in November 2016.
Start End Fee Register
01 Nov 2014 See description
£290.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in November 2016.
Start End Fee Register
01 Nov 2014 See description
£658.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

See below for information about part time tuition fee loans available for study towards a qualification.

This course is expected to start for the last time in November 2016.

*Fees may vary by country.

What you will study

The course text, case studies and multimedia materials illustrate the symptoms of autism, the effects on behaviour, psychological functioning and social adaptation, and the consequences for the individual and his or her family. Particular emphasis is given to juxtaposing scientific and clinical approaches with the perspectives of people with autism and their relatives, and to considering the different issues that arise in childhood and the adult years.

The course opens with an introductory overview of autistic conditions. You will then engage with key milestones in the history of work on autism, such as the identification of a ‘triad’ of impairments, and the concept of a spectrum encompassing individuals and sub-groups (such as Asperger Syndrome) differing in terms of symptoms, severity and consequences. You will study the principles and procedures involved in diagnosing autistic conditions, and consider issues such as the implications of autism as a label, and the claim that the prevalence of autism may be on the increase. The course text, case studies and multimedia will guide you through key contemporary approaches to explaining the psychological and biological mechanisms that cause autism. You will then learn about recent developments in methods for helping people on the autism spectrum, and about the issues and choices that must be addressed in both therapy and education. You will engage with family perspectives on autism, considering the impact on relatives, and the complex challenges that families face. The course ends by considering key themes and issues highlighted by the study materials, and identifying the challenges that lie ahead in the autism field. 

You will learn

By the end of the course you will be able to:

  • explain and illustrate what is meant by the autism spectrum
  • describe and illustrate the main symptoms and manifestations of autism in relation to the core ‘triad’ of difficulties in communication, social interaction and flexibility of thought
  • outline the ways symptoms vary in their expression and severity between individuals and sub-groups on the spectrum, and between children, young people and adults
  • outline the main diagnostic sub-groups within the autism spectrum family of conditions
  • explain the significance of key milestones in the history of autism research and practice
  • consider procedures and issues involved in identifying and diagnosing autistic conditions
  • evaluate claims concerning the prevalence of autism across different time periods and in different populations
  • introduce the main levels of explanation – particularly psychological and biological – necessary to understand the causes and manifestations of autism
  • understand the use of scientific methods in exploring autism and helping people with autism
  • outline and evaluate recent psychological and biological research findings concerning the causes of autism
  • discuss the educational implications of autism and consider the educational options for the child or young person on the autism spectrum
  • outline key approaches to care and therapeutic interventions for people on the autism spectrum and consider the evidence base for each approach
  • discuss issues relating to family, social support needs and adulthood in people on the spectrum
  • consider the implications of ethnic minority and worldwide differences in assumptions about – and provision for – people with autism
  • illustrate the importance of first-person knowledge, alongside scientific insights, in building a complete picture of autism.

Entry

This is a Level 1 course. Level 1 courses provide core subject knowledge and study skills needed for both higher education and distance learning, to help you to progress to courses at Level 2.

You aren’t expected to have any knowledge of autism, but you should be able to read and understand written English of a style and complexity characteristic of a professional magazine or quality newspaper. If you have not studied up to GCSE level fairly recently, you should expect to spend longer on the study materials.

It is essential that you establish whether or not your background and experience give you a sound basis on which to tackle the course, since students who are appropriately prepared have the best chance of completing their studies successfully. The package Are you ready for science study? offers an interactive quiz to help you decide whether you already have the recommended background knowledge or experience to start the course.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the course, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

Outside the UK

Much of the study material considers autism from a globally relevant perspective, and the course also includes case reports on individuals from different ethnic groups, cultures, genders and ages. However, a number of aspects of the course deal with the person with autism in the context of the UK health, educational and welfare services, and include references to UK provision. The provision of health and education services for autism is likely to differ outside the UK, though many of the overarching issues will still be relevant.

Preparatory work

If you don’t already have the necessary computing and internet skills, we recommend you study sections three and four of the SAFARI materials, provided by the OU Library, before you begin your study of SK124. As an alternative you may wish to take one of the many courses available at your local adult education centre.

If you particularly wish to improve your study skills, you’re strongly advised to read The Sciences Good Study Guide (1997) by A. Northedge, J. Thomas, A. Lane and A. Peasgood, which can be purchased from Open University worldwide. Further advice is available from the Learning with the OU website.

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

If you have a disability

Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and mathematical or scientific materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. Extended figure captions are available to assist people with visual disabilities in understanding diagrams. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future. Our Services for disabled students website has the latest information about availability.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Visit our Services for disabled students website for more information, including:

  • help to determine your study requirements and how to request the support that you need  
  • Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs)
  • using a computer for OU study
  • equipment and other support services that we offer
  • examination arrangements
  • how to contact us for advice and support both before you register and while you are studying.

Study materials

What's included

The course includes one main text The Autism Spectrum in the 21st century: Exploring Psychology, Biology and Practice, a DVD-ROM, online activities, and other supporting materials either printed or delivered through the dedicated website.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this course. It includes online activities – you can access using a web browser  – and some course software provided on DVD.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer running Windows since 2007, or an Apple Mac (OS X 10.6 or later) or Linux computer, you should have no problems completing the computer-based activities.
  • A netbook, tablet or other mobile computing device is not suitable for this course – check our Technical requirements section.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information including the details of the support we provide.

Teaching and assessment

Study support

You can email a study adviser, who will be able to help you with academic questions to do with the course and the assessment. There are also online discussion forums that you can use to get in touch with study advisers and other students.

Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.

Assessment

The assessment details for this course can be found in the facts box above.

The interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs) are at roughly three week intervals throughout the course. The end-of-module assessment (EMA) must be completed and submitted online. There will also be some formative exercises to enable you to monitor your progress throughout the course.

Future availability

The details given here are for the course that starts in November 2013. We expect it to be available once a year.

How to register

To register a place on this course return to the top of the page and use the Click to register button.

Student Reviews

“I thoroughly enjoyed this course - it was very interesting and gave a view of autism from many different perspectives. ...”
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“The book was well written and interesting and provides a good basic introduction to autism. However, I was a little ...”
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Distance learning

The Open University is the world’s leading provider of flexible, high quality distance learning. Unlike other universities we are not campus based. You will study in a flexible way that works for you whether you’re at home, at work or on the move. As an OU student you’ll be supported throughout your studies – your tutor or study adviser will guide and advise you, offer detailed feedback on your assignments, and help with any study issues. Tuition might be in face-to-face groups, via online tutorials, or by phone.

For more information read Distance learning explained.

Are you already an OU student ? Go to StudentHome for information on choosing your next module.
Course facts
About this course:
Course code SK124
Credits 15
OU Level 1
SCQF level 7
FHEQ level 4
Course work includes:
5 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.

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