Traditionally, research about autistics has been developed without autistics, leading to systemic problems that reinforce stereotypes and divide communities. Some academics find the idea of autistics contributing meaningfully to research unthinkable, while the autistic community is often angered by research which holds no potential benefit, or is even directly harmful, to community aims.
Problematic dynamics between academics and minority populations are neither new nor specific to autism research. Research approaches involving academic-community partnerships can change these dynamics to benefit all partners. Academic-community partnerships empower minorities to execute research relevant to community priorities and enable academics to perform high-quality, ethical science.
Both formal and informal autistic-academic partnerships are now emerging on the cutting edge of autism research. This paper describes these research approaches and explores how they might change the perception of autistics in science and society.