Why This Work is Needed

Autistic individuals and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities encounter many challenges to community participation. As a result, they are frequently underemployed, bullied, or lonely, and experience an increased reliance on social support, increased illness, and isolation.

Autism-friendly schools, businesses, organizations, and community events are critical to engaging this vulnerable population, particularly teenagers and young adults who are preparing to leave an educational environment and transition into independent living, higher or vocational education, or the workforce.

Project Goals

For autistic students and schools, the outcomes related to this project include increased access and attendance to venues, understanding of how and when to provide their own accommodations, increased confidence to self-advocate, decreased social anxiety, loneliness, and isolation; ultimately, learners will have increased self-advocacy, community participation, quality of life, employability, and decreased reliance on social supports.

For community partners and venues, outcomes will include increased understanding of autism-friendly planning and implementation, thus allowing them to increase autism friendliness in their events and helping others self-study to determine how they can increase their autism-friendliness. The impact of these collective outcomes are stronger, enriched, and autism-friendly community environments and events.

How This Work Was Developed

“Y’all are the first people who have asked about our feelings and feedback.”

Research Participant
sharing her thoughts on being a part of the research project

Planning for Autism in Communities and Schools was funded by the Innovative Autism Treatment Models grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in 2020. Over the course of the next two years, researchers from Texas Woman’s University School of Occupational Therapy worked alongside community organizations and stakeholders to create, build, pilot, implement, and revise the many components of this project.

Neurodiverse adults participated in the development of both the curriculum and community auditing process via regular meetings, community outings, and feedback sessions. Learn more about their experiences and contributions: