The 2022 Autistica Research Festival will take place between 11-15 July 2022, featuring a broad range of presentations and panel sessions across an array of autism research areas, as well as the lived experience of autistic people throughout.

Applications are now open

If you would like to be part of the 2022 Festival, you can apply now to share your work or lived experience (or both) with our national and international audience. As with the last two Festivals, this year's will be an online conference, although we hope we may be able to hold one or two in-person events during the week, pandemic permitting.

Guidelines for applications are below, including the themes of the Festival, the four presentation formats and details on how to submit your applications. Applications close on Friday 25 February 2022.

Please note: all timings are subject to change. Any changes to submission or review dates and deadlines will be communicated directly with applicants as well as via Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram.

Themes and focus

Autistica’s Insight Group is made up of around 250 autistic adults and parents or carers of autistic people. They work with us and our researchers to improve the way we work. In November, we contacted members of the Insight Group, asking what topics and issues they wanted to see included at the 2022 Festival. 28 members provided feedback, detailing 25 topics and discussing their importance.

Another 31 members then prioritised the topics they thought most crucial. Those most prioritised were presented to our Conference Review Panel (CRP), a group of 11 autism researchers, who advised on how these topics might be grouped into coherent themes. Subsequently, we reviewed the topics for commonalities, bringing together those connected to the five festival themes detailed below.

Wellbeing and the life-course

There is a pressing need for better mental, physical and social outcomes for autistic people. Understood through the scope of wellbeing, these outcomes manifest in relation to a broad range of environmental and social factors that impact autistic people across the life-course.

Despite this, there is a lack of understanding of wellbeing in the context of autism, a dearth of knowledge ever more apparent when considered alongside key life stages and transitions. Wellbeing will only improve if autistic people have access to appropriate mental health support and health care, as well as to social, spiritual and occupational opportunities.

This theme welcomes research presentations that focus on autistic people and their wellbeing, particularly in relation to the life-course.

Presentation examples
: Presentations could focus on support approaches for autistic people experiencing key life transitions, such as during the menopause or in bereavement; they could explore access to health care for older autistic people, or; they could explore the relationship between sensory experiences and mental health in autistic teenagers.

Key words
: Mental health; health and health care; diet and eating; sensory experiences and processing; adolescence and teenage years; older age and ageing, transitions; anxiety.

Autonomy and support: opportunities and barriers

This theme will explore the interrelationship between autonomy and support in the lives of autistic people and their allies. Accessing the right support at the right time is vital for autistic people, yet we know barriers exist in a variety of forms and settings. Pathways to diagnosis, support services, and social care are complex and burdensome. Similarly, the pathways into employment may be presented in the form of working environments and practices.

Within this theme we want to showcase research that examines how autistic people experience autonomy and support as well as work that provides evidence of ways to reduce barriers and improve opportunities.

Presentation examples: Presentations could address questions such as what opportunities there are for autistic people to excel in education and employment; what autism training creates effective support practices in social care organisations, or; provide evidence of novel and beneficial post-diagnostic support approaches.

Key words: Support services; social care; employment, unemployment, and workplaces; diagnosis; pre- and post-diagnostic support; education; organisational/staff training; self-advocacy.

Underserved and/or marginalised groups and populations

The autistic population is diverse in make-up, background and culture, though this is often not reflected within the autism research field. Many groups require greater involvement in research if their experiences, challenge, and support needs are to be better understood. Researchers must adapt and develop their practices to account for the diverse circumstances of autistic people.

This theme aims to provide a platform for research with a focus on people who have historically been underserved by research and whose perspectives and experiences require greater attention.

Presentation examples: Presentations could provide findings on new research methods to include autistic people with profound learning disabilities in research; the educational experiences of black autistic women; or they could explore issues facing older autistic people within residential care.

Key words: Autism and race; older autistic people; autistic people with severe/profound learning disabilities; autistic women and girls; autistic people who use few or no words.

Identity, relationships and communication

Who autistic people are, how they experience and engage with themselves, others, and the world is important to understand if we are aiming to create a more inclusive society. This aim also requires knowledge of how non-autistic or neurotypical people understand and engage with autistic people, as an inclusive society involves and requires shared knowledge and understanding.

The intention of this theme is to showcase autism research exploring experiences, perceptions and ways of thinking, relating and engaging.

Presentation examples: Presentations could explore the ways autistic and non-autistic people are engaged with in Higher Education; provide empirical evidence relating to psychological theories, or; explore experiences of sexuality in autistic people with learning disabilities.

Key words: Gender; sexuality; the double empathy problem; masking; theory of mind; relationships; sociality; monotropism; communication; parenting; attitudes towards autism and autistic people.

Autism and its intersections

Autism is a condition that intersects with many other conditions and disabilities. It is vital that these intersections are better researched and understood if all autistic people are to have the opportunity to succeed in life. Support systems, accessible environments, communication approaches and psychological therapies need to be developed with consideration for and knowledge of the experiences and perspectives of people situated within these intersections.

This theme will present research with a focus on autism and intersecting conditions and disabilities, intending to explore and engage with key issues, highlight innovative approaches and showcase new evidence.

Presentation examples: Presentations could discuss new therapeutic technologies aimed at autistic people with a mental health condition; explore ways anorexia manifests in young autistic people, or; provide new evidence of the neurological connections between epilepsy and autism.

Key words: Neurodivergence and neurodiversity; autism and other disabilities; autism and related/other conditions; anorexia; epilepsy; deaf community and culture; learning disabilities; blind and partially sighted autistic people; mental health.

Autism research more broadly

One of our aims with the Festival is to showcase the most important and innovative autism research happening in the UK. We recognise that such research may not always be captured or represented in the themes developed and proposed for our festival and we do not want to exclude it from our programme purely on that basis.

We have a final, open theme that invites autism research of any sort that does not fit within the Festival’s pre-defined themes. In doing so, we hope to provide a platform for outstanding ideas and projects which merit the Festival audience’s attention, consideration and recognition.


Presentation formats

We are accepting applications to present in the following formats:

Panel presentations

Format: A pre-recorded presentation focused on an outstanding research project within a UK context. Presentations should relate to the Festival themes. The presentation will be followed by a live Zoom Q&A with two or more of the presenters. This is the primary form of presentation at the Festival.

Length
: 12 minutes

If an application is successful, Autistica will provide guidance on how to record and submit your video presentations.Recorded presentations will need to be provided to Autistica no later than Monday 30 May 2022.

Key application information
: An academic abstract (300 words max.) that details the project and intended presentation; a lay abstract (300 words max.) that details the project and intended presentation in plain, easy to understand language.

Review criteria
: Applications will be reviewed and scored by one or more peer reviewers and a lay reviewer, informing a final recommendation by the CRP. There is a separate document with detailed information on the reviewing and scoring criteria.

Apply for a panel presentation

Lived experience and community presentations

Format: A pre-recorded presentation with the option of participating in a live Zoom Q&A after the presentation and/or responding to questions in the Zoom chat during the session. Lived experience presentations can explore issues, challenges or topics that relate to any of the Festival themes – please consider the themes’ keywords to see where a presentation might fit.

Length
: 12 minutes

If an application is successful, Autistica will provide guidance on how to record and submit your video presentations. Recorded presentations will need to be provided to Autistica no later than Monday 30 May 2022.

Key application information
: A description of the presentation you intend to give (300 words max.). It should describe what it is about, the key points and why it is an important topic.

Review criteria
: Applications will be considered in relation to how they fit within the festival programme, its themes, and its time schedule. We intend to have at least one lived experience presentation per session.

Apply for a lived experience or community presentation

Poster presentations

Format: A digital poster to be hosted on Autistica’s website and disseminated via the Autistica Network and Autistica’s social media platforms.  

Optional
: A 3-minute accompanying video description of the poster and the project, which will form part of an hour-long Zoom poster session during the Festival. Poster presenters will be able to join their Zoom poster session to respond to questions in the chat.  

Key application information: An academic abstract (300 words max.) that details the project; a lay abstract (300 words max.) that details the project in plain, easy to understand language.

Review criteria
: Applications will be reviewed and scored by one or more peer reviewers and a lay reviewer. There is a separate document with detailed information on the reviewing and scoring criteria.

Apply for a poster presentation

Symposium presentations

Format: A pre-recorded or live Zoom session hosted by a researcher, group of researchers or research institute, followed by a live Q&A. Symposiums should focus on a single theme relevant to the Festival’s themes and are an opportunity to showcase the work of several researchers whose work interrelates, connects and addresses important issues facing autistic people and their allies. Symposiums are also a chance for researchers to be creative and imaginative and we would expect any applications to host a symposium to demonstrate how they would create an engaging and interesting session.

Length
: 1-1.5 hours

If an application is successful, Autistica will provide guidance on how to record and submit your video presentations. Recorded presentations will need to be provided to Autistica no later than Monday 30 May 2022.

Key application information
: An academic and lay abstract (400 words max.) that details the key ideas for the symposium; the presentations that will be part of it and the projects/research they stem from; information on the researchers/research group/institute that will host.

Review criteria
: Symposium applications will be reviewed and scored by one or more peer reviewers and a lay reviewer, informing a final recommendation by the CRP. There is a separate document with detailed information on the reviewing and scoring criteria.

Apply for a symposium presentation

How to apply

Applications to present at the 2022 Autistica Research Festival must be submitted through the Autistica Grant Platform. To do this, you will need to start by creating an account. Once you have created the account and logged in, you will be able to start an application. We have created detailed guidance on how to use this platform and are available via email to answer any queries you may have.

Once you have started an application, you are able to save and return to it at any stage. You will also be able to see all of the questions that will be asked, although we have also prepared a short document detailing the questions for each presentation format should you wish to view them and prepare your answers before creating an account.

All applications must have been received no later than Friday 25 February in order to be considered for the Festival.

The review process

All academic applications to present at the Festival will undergo both peer and lay reviews, with reviewers’ scores informing a final decision by the CRP. You can also read our Application Reviewing and Scoring Criteria document to find about more about the review process.