In Summary

Earlier this year, Swinburne announced that it would be running a free online course (MOOC) that aims to assist parents, families and carers who live and work with individuals on the Autism spectrum.

With the deadline for registrations of Swinburne’s Autism MOOC fast approaching (this Sunday, April 12!), we sat down with MOOC Project Lead, Swinburne’s Emma Donaldson, to find out more about this great initiative.

1. Tell us about the content of the MOOC and what the participants will learn about?

The MOOC will include topics such as skills for effectively communicating with people with Autism. We’ll talk about alternate technologies and communication techniques that can help, and how to approach social skill difficulties.

We will also talk about “obsessions” or as we prefer to call them, “special interests” being fixation points that many people with Autism have.

We also have topics such as lifelong transitions into independent living and how to effectively support different ages and genders. The course uses real scenarios and draws on student experiences. It aims to foster a supportive network of parents and carers.

2. Why did you choose to focus on educating the public about Autism?

Of all the special needs areas, it’s the biggest and riskiest to tackle. There is so much contention across the globe with causes and treatments constantly in debate. I also think it is an area where education can really make a difference. That’s something I feel really strongly about.

4. Where does your passion for this kind of work come from?

It all started when I was an integration aid, helping those with special needs acclimatise to main stream schooling. I also have family members and friends who are neurodiverse, so it’s an area of personal significance for me too.

I’ve met some amazing people during my time working with neurodiversity, but the one person who really inspired me was a boy named Hugh. Hugh was having such difficulty integrating into the world and it became clear to me that the problem was with the system and not with him. It really demonstrated that there is a lack of education and knowledge available to the public on this topic.

3. The reaction to the MOOC has been huge! Did you expect such a response from the program?

I’m not that surprised actually, there is an obvious need for more online help, training and professional development opportunities for the family and friends of those affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Originally we were aiming for 5,000 participants, but now we’ve had 15,000 people register!

5. What sort of people is this MOOC for? Who’s signing up and why?

Many of those who registered are either parents, carers and educators, but it’s for anyone who thinks they would benefit.  People are seeking out not only solutions and outcomes, but also an online forum where ideas and experiences can be shared openly with like-minded individuals.

We also have some people with Autism who have signed up; they will provide feedback on how well we have hit the mark and how relevant they felt it is. 

Registrations for the Autism MOOC are open until Sunday April 12th. Sign up her for the Autism MOOC.