Autistic people with and without a learning disability are helping us find out why they’re more vulnerable and likely to develop mental health problems.

Simon and his Cambridge-based team are finding out why autistic people are more vulnerable. 

They hope their research will lead to improvements in the health and quality of life of autistic people through

  • personalised support
  • changes in government policy
  • social change

Explaining the need for this project

Vulnerability is one of the least studied aspects of autism research. People with autism are vulnerable in different ways and at different times, but there is currently no way to measure their vulnerability. Vulnerability in autism can lead to abuse, social exclusion, victimisation and mental illness. 

The process

The research team are working with autistic adults and parents of autistic children, with and without an intellectual disability. 

Together they’ve identified potential vulnerabilities to include in their research including

  • education
  • employment
  • money
  • parenting
  • contact with the courts and the police
  • bullying
  • domestic abuse
  • mental illness
  • social support

They are collecting responses through two online surveys - one for autistic adults (over 18) and one for parents and carers of autistic children (under 18). 

The surveys are collecting information about 

  • what makes autistic people more vulnerable
  • the situations and social factors that make a person more vulnerable
  • the key times in life where autistic people are most vulnerable

How this project is making a difference

The research team want to empower autistic people to make positive changes in their own lives.

This is the first research of its kind and has great potential to find practical ways to help autistic people feel less vulnerable. The project will also make recommendations for national policy and social change.