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Understanding autism
Understanding autism

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3.2 Doing research well

Facilitating effective autism research is not just a question of funding the right areas; it is also about how the research is done and who gets to participate. Scientific approaches such as cognitive psychology and neuroscience traditionally follow a model in which one group of people (research specialists in the field) carry out tests and gather information from another group of people (the participants).

But there has been a growing call for autistic people to play a more integrated role (Pellicano and Stears, 2011). One leading Canadian research team, headed by Professor Laurent Mottron, has been following this approach for some years, with Michelle Dawson, an autistic person, as a research team member. Dr Anna Remington, Director of the Centre for Research in Autism and Education, University College London, leads on several initiatives to ensure that autistic people inform the CRAE research activities not just as participants, but in other roles (Zeliadt, 2017).

Of course, doing research this way is not straightforward. For instance, autistic people may need to accept certain research findings which do not fit with their own personal experience. Mutual respect, trust and candid dialogue between team members is an important part of making such a process viable.