‘Growing in to Autism’: How we can support autistic people

The recent launch of Professor Sandra Jones’s new book, Growing in to Autism, highlighted work from the Autism at ACU research program and demonstrated how to create an inclusive autism-friendly event.

More than 100 guests, including Members of Parliament, ACU staff, health and education professionals and autistic stakeholders, attended the launch, which was co-hosted by the Office of the Vice President and the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Enterprise.

 Several pink books with the title 'Growing in to Autism' on a table covered by a white tablecloth

Growing in to Autism was written from Sandra’s perspective as a late-diagnosed autistic.

At this special event, the Research Impact Unit showcased the Autism at ACU research program, including autism research undertaken by our undergraduate and postgraduate students. This display had a particular focus on how research can be translated into impactful resources using different formats for end-users, and end-users were invited on to campus for the event to learn more about our research program.

Displays on the night included a range of posters created by the Honours and HDR research students, and work currently being undertaken by our winter scholarship students, who are translating some of our autism research into resources that are accessible to the broader community. These include a six-episode podcast mini-series by Joana Simmons, Am I Aspie or Autistic?, which presents the findings from the team’s research on experiences of people with an Asperger’s diagnosis after the changes to the DSM-5 categories.

 Three posts about autism research on a wall with two people blurred in the foreground

The book launch event was carefully planned to be autism-friendly and could serve as an exemplar for future events.

Key aspects of this planning included a detailed website providing information about the event and a sensory map of the building and surrounds, a quiet room streaming from the main room, sensory information, options for communication preferences, and fidgets, baseball caps and ear plugs for those who needed additional support. The team also set up a space in the lecture theatre showing what Sandra’s ideal quiet low-sensory space would be like.

Special thanks to all who assisted on the night and leading up to the event for making it such a success, and in particular to Lisa Lavey for her mammoth effort in coordinating the many aspects of the night, and to Josh Beard and Julie Parker, for their valuable contributions behind the scenes. Feedback has been very positive from all who attended to celebrate this occasion.

Congratulations to Sandra on this wonderful achievement.

Growing in to Autism is available at all good book stores and is also available for purchase on the Melbourne University Publishing website in both paperback and ebook.

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