The ground-breaking new offering, a Graduate Certificate in Education (Autism), equips classroom teachers with relevant skills and an academic grounding designed to help them respond to situations and challenges confidently.

Launching in 2016, and being rolled out from February this year, Torrens University Dean of Education Mick Grimley says that the course was very much created to address the high prevalence of students with autism.

“About 1-100 children are diagnosed with autism now,” he says. 

“A lot of these children will go to mainstream schools, though some are in special schools, but there’s still a high number in mainstream schools.”

The challenge which arises in this case is that teachers within mainstream schools may not be fully aware of the complexities of autism.

There is a concern that these students may not be receiving the best support, and that teachers may struggle to fully comprehend their students’ needs.

The Graduate Certificate in Education (Autism) responds to these challenges by drawing on illuminating first-person experiences from those with autism. 

Grimley explains that this aspect of the graduate certificate offers teachers personal insights and experiences so they can put themselves into hypothetical situations and consider the different ways they can support students’ varied communication styles and thought processes.

In order to further encourage this reflective practice, the course highlights and explores a first-person approach to supporting children in the classroom with autism. 

“One of the issues that we’ve got is most teachers do a special education course, but that doesn’t really equip them to understand autism, to understand these children, how they differ and how they might change their practice to improve the outcomes for these children. 

“Given that the numbers [of students with autism] are so high, we thought that there’s a real need for this.”

As Grimley mentions, teachers working within mainstream schools may not have had any background or experience teaching students with autism.

“It’s actually a massive gap,” he says.

“It’s not just important for the teachers, it’s important for the children themselves. 

“If our teachers don’t really understand these children, then they really aren’t going to get the experience that they deserve.” 

After all, Grimley says, further learning is the key to helping teachers better understand their students, and education is also the key to ensuring that students get the right support within the classroom.

While the Graduate Certificate in Education (Autism) is aimed at classroom teachers, Grimley adds that educators who wish to move into consulting on education policy and practice down the track, may also benefit from the new academic offering.