MSc in Autism and Related Neurodevelopmental Conditions

Course Description

The New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling NSPC has been involved in research and teaching in autism and neurodiversity since its inception in 1998. The online courses provide in-depth theory, understanding of clinical issues and practice, and research skills. NSPC believes that improving awareness, and high quality assessments and services for autistic and neurodiverse individuals is paramount. Continued research into autism and increasing the understanding of what life is like for autism and neurodiverse individuals is essential worldwide.

The distance learning nature of the course means that students can learn in a flexible format that fits around work and personal commitments. The course is wholly online and is accessed by students across the world. Learning incorporates theory, references to real world settings, skills and research. Students learn together in a collaborative way, sharing knowledge and experience.

The courses provide professional development for those supporting autistic and neurodiverse individuals. If you are qualified in a relevant professional field, these courses will qualify you to practice as a specialist within that area. However, the programmes are also of interest to those wanting to study autism and neurodiversity solely from an academic and research perspective. Including for parent, carers or individuals with a neurodiversity who want access to the latest research, and information about services. Features of the course you might like:

Students can exit with a Postgraduate certificate in ADHD or Autism, or Postgraduate Diploma in Autism. Prior learning and experience can be granted for modules taught at level 7; and this can be discussed at interview.

Course Leader: Ruth Millman

Consultant: Professor Digby Tantam

Programme of Study

Year 1

In the first year students receive in-depth teaching on autism, including neurobiological understandings of neurodiversity. Students will also have specific teaching on research skills and begin their research project. The teaching covers the following modules:

Autism Spectrum Disorder: This module develops awareness of diagnosis and presentation of autism. It also provides a comprehensive account of contemporary knowledge about the causes and effective therapies, approaches and interventions in ASD, and to enable the student to be able to combine these personal and scientific perspectives.

Development Through the Life Span: Autism and neurodiversity involves issues of development and within this module students will learn to critically appraise developmental theories, demonstrating how physical, emotional, cognitive, and social development interact and how theories of development, and developmental stages, can be applied to counselling psychology. Development stage theories will be evaluated in the context of the existential reflections on the purpose of development as an unfolding project.

Neuropsychological and neurobiological approaches to atypical development: This module aims to provide all of the necessary biological and psychosocial knowledge for a student to be able to read and understand the scientific literature on the causes, development, ascertainment, impact, and management of the neurodevelopmental disorder. Giving students a foundational knowledge base, that also assists completion of other modules of the course.

Research Methods Module: This module will provide an understanding of the contribution of research to the growth of knowledge and the effectiveness of practice. It will give the student a grounding in research approaches, with particular attention to the strengths and weaknesses of qualitative and quantitative approaches.

Year 2

Students will build on their knowledge, including deepening their knowledge on specialist areas such as ADHD and communication disorders. As well as enhancing their research skills and completing their research projects.

Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder: Students will learn about the presentations of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and of the impact of this disorder on the affected person and on the people close to them. It also aims to provide a comprehensive account of contemporary knowledge about the causes and effective treatments of ADHD, and to enable the student to be able to combine these personal and scientific perspectives.

Communication disorders and developmental coordination disorders OR atypical speech, language and motor development. This module gives students an awareness of the presentations of specific learning disorders, (SLD), communication disorder, developmental coordination disorder (DCD), and of the impact of these disorders on the affected person and on the people close to them. Students will gain a comprehensive account of contemporary knowledge about the causes and effective treatments of SLI, SLD and DCD, and to enable the student to be able to combine these personal and scientific perspectives. The overall aim is to provide the detailed knowledge of these two developmental disorders, that are often overlooked in adults.

Social, Cultural, and ethical issues: This module will cover cultural variations, and the impact of social organization and culture on morals, values, and social expectation. It will enable students to make appropriate decisions about consent, confidentiality, discrimination, exploitation, fairness, duty of care, and other ethical and moral quandaries in professional practice.

Research Supervision: MSc students will also have to complete independent and original research leading to a completed research dissertation of 15.000 words. Students will get supervision with a personal supervisor to guide and support them through their research journey.

One of the following:

Well-being and health: This module provides an understanding of the role of positive psychology and other theoretical approaches to well-being within an overall strategy of improvement of quality of living. Student will learn about the links between happiness and well-being, and about positive psychology and well-being interventions.

Intellectual Disability: Students will learn about the presentations and aetiology of ID and the impact of these on the individual. It also looks at co-morbidity of ID with other neurodevelopmental conditions and effective support and services for individuals. Students will also consider related issues such as the criminal justice system and safeguarding.

Accreditation and Careers

This programme is quality assured by Middlesex University and you will receive a Middlesex award on successful completion.

The courses also cover the curriculum within the “Expertise Level” of training as outlined by the Scottish Government / NHS for Education Scotland Training Plan for Autism (the most comprehensive guidelines on autism training to date).

These postgraduate courses provide mental health, social care and education focused professionals with the qualifications to work as specialists in their fields of practice. Opening up career opportunities with autism/neurodiversity specialist services and centres (e.g. assessment, mental health, further education). The courses also enhance the skills and knowledge of those already working as autism/neurodiversity specialists.


Year of course

Modules to be completed in year

Fee payable per year

(if no modules have to be repeated)


5 modules over 3 terms



6 modules over 3 terms


*NB There is one textbook that you are required to buy, but many students also buy books from our recommended reading list.

Fees are charged per module as you take them, so costs are spread across each year rather than by an annual lump sum.

Entry Requirements

  • An undergraduate degree in any subject (equivalent experience may be acceptable)
  • Fluent English
  • Personal suitability to be determined at interview
  • Reliable internet connection

How You Study

The course is delivered wholly online. Modules are undertaken using a bespoke learning platform called Moodle. The theory modules are mainly asynchronous, so can easy to fit around a busy life, or caring commitments and is accessible worldwide. Students work through weekly materials online, posting and discussing in the forum with the group and tutor. A weekly quiz ensures that you are absorbing the materials.

Students will have a weekly online chat with tutors and other students, at a time and day decided between group members.

For those on the MSc research supervision is provided from year 2, and can be done in a number of ways depending on what best suits both student and supervisor, but usually takes the form of email and video chat.

Students may take up to 4 years to complete should they need additional time.

It is possible to apply for a PGCert in ADHD, Autism, or a PGDip in Autism. You can also exit the programme early with either a PGCert or PGDip award

Words from Our Graduates

A few years ago I was looking for a postgraduate course in autism and after comparing a couple of options I decided to go for this one and I’m glad I did. It required a lot of self-studies and it was definitely challenging, but all the modules were constructed so well both in terms of structure and content and made it possible for me to follow. I cannot stress enough that the tutors had real expertise in their fields and were really willing to help when we struggled. Having completed the course now I realise that it gave me solid knowledge in autism and I want to know more. Choosing this course was one of the few good decisions I have made in my life.

Graduate of the MSc Autism

MIddlesex University