This seminar series began in October 2013 and continues until June 2014, culminating in a Conference in autumn 2014. Its timing is strategic as it links with the Scottish Government Autism Strategy and is founded on the importance of looking holistically at the day-to-day lives of people with autism, their families and carers and the people that work with them, which has been emphasised in Scottish policy development at local and national levels.


The presentations from each of the seminars can be found in the Action on Autism Research Virtual Network.

Find out how to access the Virtual Networks here.

Members can access the Virtual Networks here.

The role that research may play in helping all involved to have a greater understanding of the impact of autism on daily life and in changing our collective and individual attitudes, values and approaches towards improved quality of life has been under-explored in Scotland. We believe that research has an impact to make, that this can be at a high level of knowledge production but also in an integrated and applied way.


Research plays an essential role in providing a rigorous, valid and reliable evidence base for understanding the key features of autism, for exploring effective approaches and interventions, and for evaluating implementation and impact. The purpose of the seminar series is to explore the state of autism research in Scotland in relation to these three functions. Part of this process will be to define ‘impact’, to consider how evidence supports claims of impact, to identify both research and impact gaps and to work together and across disciplines to consider how to maximise impact.


The four seminars focus as follows –


Clinical Research, Interventions and Impact (research into genetic and environmental risk factors, neurodevelopmental issues and medical issues such as seizure disorders, gastrointestinal issues etc.; critical evaluation of associated interventions (e.g. early screening and diagnosis/ drug therapy);  discussion of impact (e.g. on individuals with autism, families, diagnostic services, service planning, implications for policy)


Psychological Research, Interventions and Impact (research and understanding of the psychological processes (cognitive, affective, motor, sensory and perceptual) that underpin the behaviours associated with autism; critical evaluation of associated interventions (e.g. joint attention training, structured learning); discussion of impact (on clients, families, professionals, support services, implications for policy)



Social Research, Interventions and Impact (research into autism and social development, social inclusion and participation, and everyday living; critical evaluation of associated interventions (e.g. relationship/social skills training – RDI, SCERTS); discussion of impact (e.g. on individuals with autism, families, service providers, training implications, implications for policy)



Educational Research, Interventions and Impact (research into autism and schooling / life-long learning and employment; critical evaluation of associated interventions (e.g. PECS, TEACCH); discussion of impact ( on learners with autism, families, practitioners, employers, economic costs, policy implications)


Impact is challenging and with support and interest from Research Autism we could focus on an intervention dimension so we understand better the contribution of intervention to impact.


This work will be driven by the following questions


  • What do we mean by impact in autism research, policy and practices?
  • What claims are currently being made for impact?
  • How, methodologically, is this being evidenced?
  • Where is impact weak / why?
  • How can impact gaps be addressed?
  • How can we work across disciplines and interest groups to maximise impact?

The proposed synergy between research-policy and practice that underpins our Action on Autism Research Seminar Series will focus on four key aspects of the international autism knowledge base and on where the research community in Scotland sits in relation to this work. These seminars aim to interrogate these topics in terms of research evidence, impact, gaps and future work. These four 2-day meetings are each designed to hear from respected international research leaders, to provide an opportunity for Scottish researchers to present their work and to offer the opportunity to explore impact, link to practice and respond to and instigate effective policy implementation.