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Learn about ongoing research into autism-friendly initiatives

Here you can learn about research initiatives by both Aspect and other researchers into ways to make society more accesible to autism. At Aspect, all of this research feeds into the work we do to make Australia autism-friendly.

Paper: Holloway, C.A., Munro, N., Jackson, J., Phillips, S. & Ropar, D. (2020). Exploring the autistic and police perspectives of the custody process through a participative walkthrough. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 97

Open access here:

This paper explores autistic and police perspectives of the custody process using a ‘participative walkthrough’.

A walkthrough involves one or more autistic people walking through an environment whilst it is being used on a typical day. The autistic participant describes moment to moment challenges and stressors and these are logged by a walkthrough partner. The walkthrough partner observes and captures information, sometimes using a map of the site.

The authors describe the ‘go along’ technique as “typically used by researchers to learn more about a neighbourhood or place or experimentally, to explore new and unfamiliar situations”. It combines qualitative research methods that are more detailed and accurate than general surveys not conducted in situ or those that do not use walkthrough partners.

The researchers found helpful information about the importance of predictability to improve familiarity, the impact of the size of the space, sensory issues, communication challenges, a need for staff training to improve support. All of these issues can lead directly to immediate improvements in the process both for staff on site as well as longer-term changes to policy and practice.

One example: Not knowing what was going to happen was a key source of anxiety. One participant emphasised that it helped when the officers provided a context for what was happening by explaining what they were going to do and why they had to do each thing.

Aspect uses the walkthrough technique in all autism-friendly consultancies, whether airport, museum or outdoor opera and we understand the value for customers in providing a rich source of practical information.

For all children, participation and inclusion in community activities and in physical activity has many benefits. However, in general, children on the autism spectrum are less physically active and have lower rates of community participation compared to non-autistic children. Being ‘different’ can lead to children on the autism spectrum and their families being left out of mainstream community-based physical activity programs, such as sporting clubs.
In Australia, one very popular community-based weekly physical activity program is Nippers, which is provided each summer by surf lifesaving clubs at beaches across Australia. In 2017 Aspect Practice received funding to provide a program of support to surf lifesaving clubs in New South Wales and Queensland so that they could run Nippers sessions during the 2017-2018 summer that were adapted to be inclusive of children on the autism spectrum. This was called the Inclusive Beaches project.

What would an adapted program of Nippers need to provide so that children on the autism spectrum and their families could take part, feel included and have a good time? What support would clubs need?

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