Every Behaviour is a Communicative Act

Teacher educating child

Meet Di Lam. She’s a speech pathologist, and she just successfully completed the ‘Voices of Autism MOOC’.

Recently, Torrens University began running a series of free, online courses designed to educate anyone interested in learning about Autism Spectrum Disorder. The ‘Voices of Autism Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)’ runs for just one month, and is completely free and online. It’s driven by a team of staff who are all personally committed to raising public awareness around this important topic. By reaching an audience spanning across different professions and states, their hope is to contribute to a nation-wide shift in how we think about Autism.

Meet Di Lam. She’s a speech pathologist, and she just successfully completed the ‘Voices of Autism MOOC’.

Twenty-eight-year-old Di recently moved to Sydney from Melbourne, after graduating from her Masters of Speech Pathology at Melbourne University. She had been offered work at an autism-specific childcare centre and a private speech pathology practice.

“I was very lucky with the work I found here, as I was able to meet a bunch of very talented and driven individuals working towards bettering the lives of children with disabilities and/or developmental delays.” – Di Lam

Di specialises as a certified Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) therapist.

ESDM therapy is an early intervention program specifically for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and she practices this therapy at both of her workplaces. So much of Di’s working life is spent with kids on the spectrum and their families. She decided she needed to learn more about this condition to become a better practitioner, so she enrolled in the ‘Voices of Autism MOOC’.

“I wanted to understand more about the lived experience of Autism through the eyes of the individual as well as their families.”

‘The Voices of Autism MOOC’ is only offered online. This is to ensure the greatest amount of reach, but also because Torrens understands that most people participating are already working full time. It can be hard to juggle study, work and family commitments, but it’s totally possible – as Di discovered.

“It was tricky studying online, because of my time management skills! However, overall it was great because I could go back to the previous weeks if I had forgotten what the content was, and I could take my time with the course as well.”



One of the common misconceptions about online study is that you don’t absorb and apply the lessons as effectively into practice. In fact, the opposite is true.

The flexibility and multimedia format of online learning can even mean it’s a more effective means of absorbing information than traditional teaching methods. Di Lam found herself applying the lessons she learned in the ‘Voices of Autism MOOC’ directly into her professional practice.

“I found the course content very relevant to my life and job, especially the information that was given by the families, and what their lived experiences were like. It was very informative, quick and to the point.

The course has also made me understand the sensory overload that many people on the Autism spectrum face.

This has made me warier of my voice, surrounding stimuli and the materials that I use in my everyday practice. The course also consolidated and further deepened my knowledge of the difficulties families may go through.”

Torrens University has recently developed a suite of courses focused on Autism Spectrum Disorder in a whole new way. Utilising a ground-breaking ‘person first’ approach, these courses are designed with the input of those on the spectrum and their families.

You get to learn what it’s like to live with Autism, from their perspective.

The Graduate Certificate of Education (Autism) is one such course and is available to educators or anyone in the community who wants to learn about this common condition.

Since finishing the course, what advice would Di give to other therapists or people who work with kids and adults from the autism spectrum?


“Every behaviour is a communicative act. Understand the communicative act and what may be causing it (for example, the environment or too many cognitive demands) to assist the individual with overcoming their difficulties.”

Di originally dreamed of being a doctor as a child, but she’s really glad she ended up on the path that she’s on. She loves her work and is looking forward to a career doing what she loves best.

“I was lucky enough to fall into my new and revised dream job of being a pediatric speech pathologist. It has been a priceless and very special experience!

In the future, I see myself working as a paediatric speech pathologist. I hope I will be working with children with autism and other disabilities.

I endeavour to become skilled and proficient in providing therapy and support to the children (and their parents) by helping them find their voice and a way to communicate with others.”


Torrens University also offers a range of short courses, diplomas and degrees specialising in Autism and other learning conditions. See our website for more courses on offer or contact one of our staff for more information.

Enrolments are now open for the Graduate Certificate of Education Autism, learn more about this unique course today.

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