Postgraduate Certificate in Specialist Clinical Practice – Learning Disabilities and Autism

About the programme

This programme is a postgraduate certificate in specialist clinical practice with Autistic Children and Young People, and Children and Young People with Learning Disabilities. The programme is part of the national Children and Young People (CYP) Psychological Trainings project.

This programme is validated in Partnership with The Division of Psychology and Mental Health, School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, The University of Manchester. 

Autistic children and young people and / or with Learning Disabilities need services who are skilled in understanding their challenges and can adapt interventions effectively.  

Autistic young people are at much higher risk of experiencing mental health issues: around half will experience anxiety at a level that reaches diagnostic threshold; across a lifetime an autistic person is 4 times more likely to experience depression; and the risk of suicidal ideation and attempts are also higher. Similarly, young people with significant learning disabilities are more likely to experience depression and anxiety than neurotypical young people, and both groups are more likely to present with behaviour that challenges, which impacts on their quality of life and that of their family and peers. Late diagnosis and a lack of effective support compound the challenges faced by young people.

Services that work to support young people’s mental health and emotional well-being need practitioners who can effectively assess neurodevelopmental conditions, formulate difficulties with sound knowledge of these conditions, provide early intervention, and adapt therapeutic approaches to better meet the needs of Autistic young people and/ or those with Learning Disabilities.  


Programme Aims

The Post-Graduate Certificate in Specialist Clinical Practice in Learning Disabilities and Autism at the Psychological Therapies Training Centre (Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust), aims to equip practitioners with the skills necessary to improve access and outcomes for Autistic children and young people and those with Learning Disabilities. The course is part-time for one year, and trainees use teaching, self-directed study, and supervised clinical practice to achieve the following outcomes: 

  • Increased understanding of the challenges faced by this client group, using a neurodiversity perspective to understand why and how these challenges develop.
  • Ability to identify and assess Autism and LD using neurodevelopmental history taking and observation (the course does not include ADOS training) 
  • Increased knowledge of interventions which target core symptoms 
  • Knowledge and practice of post-diagnostic psychoeducation approaches 
  • Knowledge and practice of effective assessment, formulation, intervention and evaluation with behaviour that challenges 
  • Training in “Riding the Rapids”, a group parent-training approach to support CYP presenting with behaviour that challenges, to improve quality of life.
  • Knowledge and practice of adaptations to practitioners’ existing skills in intervention in mental health conditions, to improve access and effectiveness of interventions such as CBT, counselling and systemic therapy.


Additionally, the programme aims to: 

  • Provide high quality training in specialist assessment and intervention for practitioners working with Autistic children and young people / CYP with learning disabilities who are experiencing mental health difficulties. This will be achieved by presenting the relevant theoretical bases of therapies and interventions alongside research evidence of their effectiveness to enable students to develop an understanding of the links between research in the relevant areas of psychological science and practical applications of these therapies. 
  • Provide training consistent with all current key governmental objectives for the CYP Psychological Trainings project, including training in ‘evidence-based practice’ and the provision of ‘lifelong learning’. As the Certificate is a postgraduate qualification programme, suitable for health, mental health and social care professionals with suitable knowledge and experience, the programme aims to develop and extend professional competence in all relevant professions. 
  • Specifically, to be consistent with the national Department of Health priorities for mental health. To create a pool of suitably qualified graduates, trained to standards meeting with the provision of services as specified by the National Service Framework for Mental Health (National Health Service Executive). The National Service Framework promotes the training of staff and the need for the increased provision of evidence-based psychotherapy to service users. 
  • Provide practical support, guidance, and supervision in the practice of therapies delivered to CYP and/or their families with learning disabilities and/or autism diagnoses, and to help programme participants to develop the clinical skills necessary for working with these client groups.                
  • Ensure that all graduates of the programme meet recognised minimum clinical competence in working within their chosen pathway. 
  • Facilitate and support students in acquiring theoretical knowledge and clinical reflective skills sufficient to develop novel ideas in relation to working with children with learning disabilities and/or autism which are relevant to their clinical and service area. 

Who Can Apply

You cannot apply directly to the training centre for this course.

Eligible applicants will be working within Northwest CYP Psychological Trainings Collaborative. Recruitment is a joint process with collaborative partners and will be working specifically in the field of Autism or Learning Disabilities, as well as those involved in the broader delivery of children and young people’s mental health care who work with Autistic CYP / CYP with Learning Disabilities.

Participants will be predominantly qualified members of the main mental health professions (Mental Health Social Workers, Psychiatric Nurses, Clinical Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Occupational Therapists in Mental Health, Accredited Counsellors), or Learning Disability Nurses. Please consult the following link for a list of all health, mental health and social care professions currently accepted by BABCP as a recognised core profession, which will be accepted as entry criteria: Core Professions (

Applicants without one of these recognised core professions will be considered for eligibility via the Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes (KSA) framework based on that developed by the BABCP.  The KSA requirements for this training programme will be provided to applicants.  An example of KSA requirements can be found on the BABCP website Knowledge Skills and Attitudes (

Successful candidates will have experience of working with families and at least 2 years’ experience of working within a professional setting concerned with the mental health of children and young people or families.

Students need to have an appropriate modality supervisor who has skills and knowledge of the CYP Psychological Trainings programme. If there is not an appropriate supervisor already in place, a post graduate certificate supervisor training course is on offer. Students need to be actively undertaking child (and/or parent, family) work where they can write-up and bring video excerpts from a range or number of cases.

North West Collaborative

The Northwest CYP Psychological Trainings Collaborative is a partnership between The University of Manchester, Greater Manchester Mental Health Foundation Trust and over 70 providers and commissioning bodies of children and young people’s mental health services across NHS, Local Authority and Voluntary sectors working in the Northwest, Yorkshire and West Midlands.

It’s one of five Learning Collaboratives across England that are part of the CYP Psychological Trainings country-wide transformation programme. The collaborative seeks to improve services through better evidence based practice, better collaborative practice, authentic participation and better use of feedback and clinical outcomes across all services.

Training Component

The training component is in the form of lectures, seminars, and supervision of clinical practice. Following the initial three days of induction, attendance is weekly mainly one day a week (Fridays) over four consecutive terms. There may be a blend of online and face-to-face teaching.  


The requirements to pass the course include: one verbal and one written case study, an exam, and an Observation of Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE - awaiting University approval). Video-based supervision and service-based supervised practice are core elements of the programme.  

How to Apply

Internal recruitment : Speak to your local CYP Psychological Trainings Lead in the first instance if you wish to apply, if you do not know who this is, please speak to your service manager. You will need the support of your service manager before applying. Services apply for funded places as early as May for the following January so plan ahead. Application forms are available via CYP Psychological Trainings Leads within Children & Young People’s services across the Northwest Collaborative from August.  Completed application forms with Service Manager and the CYP Psychological Trainings Lead approval should be sent to the CYP Psychological Trainings Lead. They then send them on to the Training Centre. This process happens annually opening in late summer and closing early autumn. Applications must be funded either with service/CCG approval if they are funding the course, or with a confirmed Recruit to Train place from NHSE (confirmed by the CYP Psychological Trainings Lead). Applicants are invited to interview through the autumn in preparation for the course starting in January.

Applications sent directly to the training centre by the applicant will not be accepted.


External recruitment Training posts are advertised by services through the summer and autumn for the January intake. Training posts are usually 1-year contracts initially to cover the length of the course. Applying for the post and for the course is a combined process with a joint interview. Applicants must be in post and able to attend the training for the commencement of the course.

The Training Centre does not have any involvement with the advertising of these posts.

Contact Us

If you have any queries regarding this course not covered in the information above or in the FAQ section of this website, please email: or (Programme Leads)  


We are happy to answer questions related to the course itself, but unfortunately are unable to provide any general career advice.

As a patient

As a service user, relative or carer using our services, sometimes you may need to turn to someone for help, advice, and support. 

Find resources for carers and service users  Contact the Trust