Understanding the societal barriers experienced by autistic adults

   Department of Psychology

About the Project

Research demonstrates that the mental and physical health of autistic adults is significantly poorer

than for non-autistic adults (Bishop-Fitzpatrick & Rubenstein, 2019; Cage, 2018). Life expectancy is

also shockingly low for autistic adults (Smith DaWalt et al. 2019; Hirvikoski et al. 2016). The way an

individual is treated by others, including by society at large, can have a fundamental impact on

wellbeing (Cooper et al. 2004). Autism stereotypes can often portray autistic people in a negative

way. The result of this can have negative consequences for autistic people (Treweek et al. 2019). This

PhD project will involve mixed-methods, the overall aim of which will be to better understand the

societal barriers experienced by autistic adults. Certain questions will be most appropriately

answered using a qualitative methodology, such as Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, in

order to understand the lived experience of being autistic in today’s society. Other questions may be

most appropriately answered using large-scale surveys or quantitative analyses of low-level

interventions targeted at reducing barriers created by broader society.

Funding Notes

Self funded or externally sponsored students only. Intakes are usually October and March annually.
NB The University has some scholarships under competition each year. More details can be found -
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Bishop-Fitzpatrick, L., & Rubenstein, E. (2019). The physical and mental health of middle aged and
older adults on the autism spectrum and the impact of intellectual disability. Research in Autism
Spectrum Disorders, 63, 34-41.
Cooper, C. L., Hoel, H., & Faragher, B. (2004). Bullying is detrimental to health, but all bullying
behaviours are not necessarily equally damaging. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 32(3),
Hirvikoski, T., Mittendorfer-Rutz, E., Boman, M., Larsson, H., Lichtenstein, P., & Bölte, S. (2016).
Premature mortality in autism spectrum disorder. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 208(3), 232-238.
Leedham, A., Thompson, A., Smith, R., & Freeth, M. (in press). "I was exhausted trying to figure it
out." The experiences of females receiving a diagnosis on the autism spectrum in middle to late
adulthood. Autism.
Smith DaWalt, L., Hong, J., Greenberg, J. S., & Mailick, M. R. (2019). Mortality in individuals with
autism spectrum disorder: predictors over a 20-year period. Autism, 1362361319827412.
Treweek, C., Wood, C., Martin, J., & Freeth, M. (2019). Autistic people’s perspectives on stereotypes:
An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Autism 23(3), 759-769.

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