Understanding autism
Understanding autism

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Free course

Understanding autism

Week 1: Introducing the autism spectrum


By the end of this week you should be able to:

  • evaluate and update your own knowledge of autism
  • express a general overview of autism and why it is considered a spectrum
  • understand different ways of gaining evidence and insights into autism
  • appreciate some different experiences of autism
  • understand key milestones in autism history.

Now watch the video in which Dr Ilona Roth introduces this week’s work.

Download this video clip.Video player: boc_aut_1_video_week1_intro.mp4
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Welcome to this free course exploring autism, and how it affects the lives of individuals and their families. Over the years that I've had the privilege to work on autism, insights have improved markedly with some positive outcomes for the lives of autistic people. Yet, despite all the progress, there are still huge gaps in understanding. And most autistic people need much more help to address the challenges they face. Through this course, I hope to share with you my passion for this important field.
Autism is often thought of as a condition of childhood, but though it starts in childhood, it usually affects people throughout their lives. Yet, the challenges facing adults have often been overlooked. So, in this course, we'll be looking at autism across the lifespan. You'll quickly learn that there's debate about the best ways of describing, exploring, and engaging with autism. For instance, is it a disabling condition or a form of neurodiversity within the natural range of differences among human individuals? I hope that the contrasting perspectives considered in the course will help you to form your own views.
This week, you'll start by evaluating your own knowledge of autism. You'll also reflect on where your ideas came from. For instance, prominent media coverage, including iconic films like Rain Man does promote awareness, but also convey some myths. To separate fact from fiction, it's important to engage with scientific findings. So week one briefly introduces some key approaches to studying autism. It's equally important to learn firsthand from autistic people and their families. You'll encounter personal accounts throughout the course. The first published accounts of autism in the 1940s described it as a single syndrome. This week concludes with a history behind today's strikingly different concept of a diverse autism spectrum-- good luck.
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