Widening horizons through participatory design with autistic students (Student Project)

Verity Ward
Fairmead School

Verity Ward.

PhD in Education.

In recent years those specialising in the design of technologies for autistic people have made increasing efforts to involve them in the design process through participatory design approaches. In doing so, they move away from deficit-focused thinking and value the knowledge and contribution which autistic people can make to their designs. However, researchers often encounter tensions between their desire to value autistic peoples’ contributions and objectives for the technological output of the projects.

My research builds on calls by Parsons and Cobb (2014) to focus on the effects of participatory design as a process rather than the technological output of such projects. Rather than having specific goals for the technological output of projects, the aims of my research relate to changing perspectives on autism, the capabilities of autistic people, and their expectations for future employment.

My first study is a collaboration with Fairmead School, where we are running a computer game design project, with the help of some local industry representatives. In doing so, we aim to investigate how such projects can influence people’s expectations for the future employment of young autistic people, according to the different roles they play in the project.