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Autism Research… Resistance was Futile

I don't want to offer too many details, as they are not yet important, but I am returning to autism-related research projects. For the last few months, I have been considering some questions about autism and I outlined some research concepts. Having thought I'd leave autism research behind when I started my new faculty post — which is focused on professional writing — I don't know why I felt compelled to outline autism research ideas, but I was.

Earlier this week, I was informed that I had received grant funding for an autism project related to writing. It was unexpected, to say the least, because it was a project I had only mentioned in broad outlines to faculty and administrators at my university. Still, I believe the project could have important implications for understanding autism, writing, and self-image.

So, I'm back to the topic I studied as a doctoral student: autism.

Because I have two research concepts outlined, my focus is now on completing those two projects by year's end (December 2012) and presenting my initial findings in the spring or summer of 2013. I am confident the research topics are worthy of publication, so I need to get down to the data collection this month.

I really did intend to focus on writing in general, and maybe some research into the rhetorical power of creative writing. But, the reality in academia is that you need a specialty to stay on the tenure track. While I would rather be a generalist, maybe that "generalist's breadth" will help me find new ways of thinking about autism and writing.

The reason I'm blogging about this is that I had become frustrated with the heat of autism debates, even when research was involved and the participants in the debates were/are academics. Tonight, I was skimming yet more heated arguments about a particular form of "writing" and autism. It can be disheartening, yet I have to admit that I fall on "one side or the other" of most debates about autism. I'm not sure you can research autism and not reach some rigid conclusions.

Why in the world would I want to conduct autism research knowing the unpleasant nature of the debates?

I'm asking myself that question and not coming up with a great answer. My only answer is that the questions I have deserve some attention and possible answers. (Granted, in research you rarely have definite answers, only likely answers based on statistics.) If I'm asking these questions, someone else likely has them, too. Maybe my research will be a small piece of something greater, or maybe it will simply reaffirm existing knowledge. Either way, I am compelled to seek data and develop conclusions.

So, resistance to research was futile. My mind couldn't resist pondering questions and seeking answers, especially about autism and writing.


  1. C.S., I look forward to following your research. Evidence backed by research is invaluable to me as a therapist, especially when the research is conducted by someone on the spectrum.


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