With a growing number of autistic students in mainstream Australian classrooms, urgent attention is needed to bridge the autism knowledge gap. Join us on a journey beyond theory, exploring tangible insights from lived experiences and evidence-based practices.


Arts, Design & Architecture


School of Education

Delivery Mode



05 April 2024


4 weeks

Time commitment

25 hours



Recent statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicate that 1 in 125 people are autistic. However, the knowledge gap on autism is expanding within our mainstream schools. Teachers are reported to be under "unprecedented pressure" (Barker, 2019), and according to the ABC, for students, "the consequences of the autism knowledge gap can be life-changing" (Keating, 2023).

Students on the autism spectrum deserve high quality education. High quality education recognises students' dignity, builds on students' strength, and is grounded in high expectations, self determination development and use of evidence-based practices. This short course is intended to upskill teachers and learning support officers to provide high quality education to students on the autism spectrum in any educational setting.

What will I learn?

This course goes beyond theorical concepts with a strong emphasis on learning in action, incorporating individualised expert guidance, lived experience accounts, guest speakers, and collaborative work within a community of like-minded professionals.

It will cover two broad domains:

  1. Evidence-Based Practices for Social and Communication Skills and Sensory Issues
  2. School Transitions, Collaboration with Families, and Life-Span Perspective.

You'll be equipped with the knowledge and tools to best implement immediate adjustments and support for all students in your classroom, irrespective of their abilities.

How will I learn?

The course will be delivered online and include 2 live sessions, self-paced guided modules, and an evidence-based practice mini research project.

Key dates:

  • Course Commences: 05 April 2024 
  • 1st Live Session: 10 April 2024 (9am to 12pm)
  • 2nd Live Session: 01 May 2024 (9am to 12pm)
  • Mini Research Project Due / Course Conclusion: 03 May 2024

The time commitment required for this course is 25 hours across 4 weeks.

Who should take this course?

This course is ideal for educators and learning support officers working in mainstream classes who support students on the autism spectrum and who may have little or no formal training in special and inclusive education.

Who is leading this course?

Professor Iva Strnadová

Iva Strnadová is a Professor in Special Education and Disability Studies at the School of Education, UNSW Sydney. Her research centers on improving the understanding and life experiences of marginalised individuals, particularly those with intellectual disabilities. Combining research with advocacy, her research program focuses on supporting the self-determination of people with intellectual disabilities (including self-advocacy), using an inclusive research approach, in which people with intellectual disabilities are included in the role of researcher. Her research interests span the well-being of those with developmental disabilities (i.e., autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disabilities), transitions in their lives, and inclusive research, including studies on girls, women, parents, and individuals with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities.

Dr Joanne Danker

Dr Joanne Danker is a lecturer in Special Education at the School of Education, UNSW Sydney. Her research interests include the well-being of students with developmental disabilities (i.e., autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disabilities), and using innovative research approaches such as Photovoice to enable the authentic voices of the often silenced and marginalised children with disabilities to be heard. Prior to her academic career, Joanne worked as a mainstream primary school educator in Singapore for 10 years.


Teachers who complete this course can then undertake further assessment in a microcredential unit for Recognition of Prior Learning for postgraduate study.

Please contact the ADA Short Courses team for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Are live sessions mandatory, and will recordings be available?

Yes, attendance at live sessions is mandatory. While sessions may be recorded for extenuating circumstances, there are currently no plans to provide recordings as a standard practice.

Does the course content include supporting twice-exceptional students?

While the course makes mention to supporting twice-exceptional students, it is not a specific topic covered within the modules. However, many components of the course would be applicable to support students from this population group. If it is an area of interest, additional readings can be provided during the course.

What level of teaching experience do I need to have to benefit from the course?

All levels of teaching experience are welcome, whether you are just starting your teaching career or are an established educator. Regardless of your experience, you will be able to benefit from the exploration of various evidence-based practices, learn from the latest research and hear from people on the autism spectrum and their families.

When will the online modules be accessible, and is there a schedule to complete the work?

The online modules are self-paced, offering flexibility to complete them according to your own schedule throughout the course duration. The modules will be accessible from 8am (AEST) on the date the course commences, allowing learners to engage with the material at their convenience. 

Why is language important when referring to people on the autism spectrum?

Language plays a crucial role when referring to people on the autism spectrum, shaping perceptions and attitudes. Employing inclusive language respects the dignity and identity of people on the autism spectrum, acknowledging their preferences and experiences, thereby fostering understanding and mitigating stigma.

Preferred terminology varies from person to person, and we recognised there is no universal rule. Some people may prefer identity-first language (e.g., "autistic") while others may prefer person-first language (e.g., "person with autism" or “person on the autism spectrum”). It is important to know that many people on the autism spectrum find terms such as “autism spectrum disorder” or the abbreviations referring to autism such as “ASD” as dehumanising and unacceptable. It's essential to use the term preferred by the person or community whenever possible. If you are not sure of a person’s preferences, you should ask them.

It is important to use a strength-based approach when talking to and about students on the autism spectrum. This means focusing on students' strengths and what supports may require in class and whilst at school. Using terms such as ‘difficulties’ or ‘challenges’ is preferred instead of using terms such as ‘deficits’ or ‘disorders’. 



Baker, J. (2019, February 20). NSW schools face 'unprecedented' levels of disability. Sydney Morning Herald. https://www.smh.com.au/education/nsw-schools-face-unprecedented-levels-of-disability-20190220-p50z47.html.

Keating, A. (2023, November 29). Mainstream Australian classrooms 'not prepared' to educate the expanding cohort of autistic students. ABC News. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-11-29/mainstream-classrooms-underprepared-to-educate-autistic-students/103157132

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