Department of Psychology

Improving the lives of autistic people

improving-autism

Autism is a life-long condition that affects around 1% of the population. As well as difficulties with social communication and interaction, autistic people can have considerable strengths. The Centre for Applied Autism Research (CAAR) works with the autistic community to develop these strengths in their everyday lives through the impact of our research.

Together with interdisiciplinary teams, Professor Mark Brosnan is carrying ‘participatory design’ with autistic people and their families to design and develop technologies in areas such as maths performance and reducing challenging behaviours. Dr Chris Ashwin is also leading research to better understand the difficulties that autistic people can have interpreting the emotional states of other people. He is working towards app-based interventions that can help reduce such difficulties through training of attentional focus on certain facial features.

Our research is also targeting levels of anxiety and depression that can be very high in autistic people. To date much of the treatment research has focused on anxiety and on younger populations. Dr Ailsa Russell is leading pioneering work investigating the feasibility of adapting psychological treatment for depression in adults with autism via a randomised controlled trial.

In the context of the criminal justice system, autistic people can particularly benefit from support in challenging situations such as being interviewed by the Police or being a witness in court. Dr Katie Maras has developed protocols for those working within the criminal justice system to support the autistic population, which is being extended to the health care system (e.g. GPs and hospitals).

CAAR also runs an autism summer school each year for people on the autistic spectrum who are thinking of going to university to enable them to experience university life and make an informed decision.