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Learning and Exploring Autism

Engaging with research and sharing autism knowledge is a vital part of our approach to the delivery of high quality services.

Home > About Autism > Research and Training

Research and Training

We seek not only to ensure that our practice is informed and improved by autism research, but also to generate new evidence for effective support strategies.

Since 2011 Scottish Autism has been operating an innovative knowledge management strategy. The aim of this is to capture and disseminate autism knowledge internally and externally. Our approach to knowledge management is underpinned by our continuous commitment to quality improvement and the use of research in doing so. The strategy has led to the establishment of a knowledge-management forum, an annual staff conference, and the following initiatives:

Knowledge Share

Our Knowledge Share seminars take place across Scotland and disseminate the autism knowledge of our experienced practitioners to parents, educators and other professionals. Recent events have focused on 'Developing Personal Coping Skills and Strategies' and 'Understanding Relationships and Sexual Health'. Right Click, our online support programme also provides vital information on autism and practical advice for parents and carers.

Practitioner Research Programme

Our own programme of research gathers evidence for effective practice from within our services. A team of practitioner researchers draw on the experiences of our staff, the individuals we support and their families to generate evidence-informed resources for the improvement of practice. Current topics include Voice, Communication and User-Participation in Autism Services and Friendships, Relationships and Sexuality among people with Autism Spectrum Disorders.  

Collaborative Research Projects

Through collaborative projects with partner organisations, research institutions and the Scottish government we are working to gather wide-ranging and robust evidence for economic strategies, interventions, and support practices that will improve the lives of autistic people across Scotland and beyond. Examples of this work are listed below.  

Government-supported Projects

Scottish Autism has received funding from the Scottish Government to undertake two major research projects - the Microsegmentation Project and the Screening/Database Project. These projects are in support of the Scottish Strategy for Autism and represent vital building blocks for the understanding of the demographics of autism and have the potential to make Scotland a world leader in this field.


The Microsegmentation Project was funded by the Scottish Government through Scottish Autism to take forward key recommendations of the Scottish Strategy for Autism (Scottish Government, 2011). The core research team consisted of: Professor Tommy MacKay, Professor Martin Knapp, Professor Jim Boyle and Michael Connolly. The primary purpose of the project was to provide a reliable foundation for identifying those costs of autism which may be ‘escapable’, that is, those which would not be incurred with appropriate interventions for individuals on the spectrum. This was taken forward by carrying out a ‘microsegmentation’ of the autism spectrum, its co-occurring conditions and its associated problems, so that a conceptual map of the spectrum might be constructed. Read the report in full at  You can read the Service Provider’s Response to the Microsegmentation report here.


The aim of this study is to undertake a systematic review of the published work on optimal methods for early screening and identification of autism spectrum disorders. The core research team consists of Dr Kenneth Aitken and Dr Felix Agakov.

Action on Autism Seminar Series

This seminar series, running from 2013-14, is bringing world-leading researchers on autism to Scotland to consider collectively the ways in which we join up research, policy and practice. The series is jointly funded by Scottish Autism together with the Scottish Government and Research Autism. It is coordinated by the Autism Network Scotland at the University of Strathclyde.

Autism and Sight Loss Project with RNIB and Napier University

Funded by the Scottish Government, this project seeks to evaluate and improve awareness of sight loss among autism support practitioners. Within our organisation vision champions will be recruited and trained by the RNIB in identifying the symptoms of sight loss. We aim to ensure that the needs of the individuals we support are identified and met and the associated research team will measure the impact of this strategy on vision awareness and diagnosis within our services.

University of Glasgow Chancellor’s Studentships

Under the above scheme two psychology undergraduate students received funding to undertake literature review projects, producing reports for the use of our practitioners. The reports focussed on computer mediated communications and the use of social networking sites by autistic people.

Knowledge Management programme

Our Knowledge Management programme is led by Deputy CEO, Charlene Tait, with research collaboration and practitioner research coordinated by Research Manager, Dr Joseph Long. Scottish Autism has a number of links with the academic community including strong associations with The National Centre for Autism Studies based at the University of Strathclyde. As an organisation we are open to potential research collaborations with partners that share our interests and values, please email