Understanding autism
Understanding autism

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

Understanding autism

5.1 Autism in the 21st century in the UK

These bullet points summarise some of the key advances in the autism field in the UK during the 21st century:

  • Autism diagnosis now follows internationally agreed criteria and standard procedures – it did not do so in the 1960s. However, there are deficiencies and delays in the accessibility of diagnosis.
  • A range of educational strategies and interventions is in use, with some measure of success. Again, though, access to schools and specialist centres with the resources to implement best practice is often extremely patchy.
  • Research has provided insights into cognition, behavior, brain function and genetics in autism, as well as long-term outcomes. Yet there are huge gaps in this understanding, concerns about funding priorities and calls to inform research from an autistic perspective
  • There is recognition that autism often goes undiagnosed, notably in females (Gould and Ashton-Smith, 2011), and also more widely in the adult population. Rectifying this problem, and meeting the needs of autistic adults generally, remain significant challenges.
  • There have been significant changes in public awareness and perceptions of autism in which autistic people have played a key role. However, there is still ignorance and stigma, and as you have seen, the media has played a mixed role.
  • Autism legislation such as the UK Autism Act 2009 and the Autism Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 are positive steps. However, the NAS and Autism NI joint report, Broken Promises, highlights failure to implement the autism strategy and action plan set out in legislation (Stewart, 2016). Similarly, The Autism Dividend, published by the National Autism Project (Iemmi et al., 2017), documents the UK-wide failure to deliver services and to source evidence-based, cost-effective interventions.

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus