I knew she'd get it, and get me: Participants' perspectives of a participatory autism research project

Published June 2022


Introduction: Autistic advocates and their supporters have long argued that conventional research practices provide too few opportunities for genuine engagement with autistic people, contributing to social disenfranchisement among autistic people. We recently described one attempt to develop and implement a participatory study in which a team of autistic and nonautistic researchers worked together to gather life histories from late-diagnosed autistic people. In the current study, we sought to understand the impact of this participatory approach on the participants themselves. Methods: We spoke to 25 Australian late-diagnosed autistic adults (aged 45–72 years), who had been interviewed by an autistic researcher using an oral history approach. We asked them about their experience of being involved in that project and the research process more broadly. We thematically analyzed participants' interviews. Results: Participants responded overwhelmingly positively to the opportunity to tell their life history, considering it illuminating and empowering. While recounting their life history was often described as “exhausting” and “draining,” participants also reported feeling “supported all the way” and agreed “it was made easier because I had an autistic researcher interviewing me.” One participant went so far as to say that they “probably would have dropped out [of the project] if it was run by people who weren't autistic.” Conclusions: These findings demonstrate that the benefits of coproduction to researchers and community partners extend to study participants and to the quality of the research itself. Involving autistic partners in the research process, especially in its implementation, can play a crucial role in enhancing autism research.
Pellicano, E., Lawson, W., Hall, G., Mahony, J., Lilley, R., Heyworth, M., Clapham, H. and Yudell, M. (2022). “I Knew She'd Get It, and Get Me”: Participants' Perspectives of a Participatory Autism Research Project. Autism in Adulthood. pp.120-129. doi.org/10.1089/aut.2021.0039

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