Department of Psychology

Autism Research Network

Autism Research Network

The Autism Research Network (ARN) has been set up in response to informal discussions with parents and practitioners in the Hampshire area. 

The primary aim of ARN is to create a forum to promote a genuine communication channel amongst researchers, practitioners, cares, parents and individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) in order to improve the lives of autistic individuals and their families. We hope to achieve this aim by:

  • creating opportunities to disseminate and discuss, research findings.
  • sharing information regarding services and regarding the latest advances in interventions.
  • facilitating collaborative links between scientists and clinicians interested in the study of ASD’s working in the UK.
  • providing useful online information about autism.
  • raising awareness of autism in the wider community.

We also seek to consult people with autism and their families, as well as professionals before we start a research project to ensure their views are reflected and their needs are met by our research projects.

Autism Centre for Research on Employment

A ground-breaking new project that aims to help people with autism into work has been given a huge funding boost. The Autism Research Network (ARN) has recently been awarded a grant of £65,000 from the Department of Health’s Autism Innovation Fund. Dr Beatriz Lopez and her team will be working in partnership with Portsmouth City Council, Hampshire County Council, Southampton City Council, Isle of Wight Council, Hampshire Police, Autism Hampshire, and the Department of Work and Pensions to set up an Autism Centre for Research on Employment (ACRE). For more information please visit our website.

Research Update

The Autism Research Network produces a quarterly publication, Research Update, which provides research summaries in accessible terms on specific areas relevant to autism. You can download this publication from the links provided below.

Issue 1: Sensory issues

Issue 3: Relationships

Issue 5: Diet

Issue 7: Interventions

Issue 9: Anxiety

Issue 11: Quality of Life

Issue 13: Early Interventions

Issue 15: Positive Contributions

Issue 17 Motor Skills

Issue 19: Ageing

Issue 2: Employment

Issue 4: Women

Issue 6: Diagnosis 

Issue 8: Challenging Behaviours

Issue 10: Early Signs of Autism

Issue 12: Epilepsy

Issue 14: Sleep

Issue 16: Autism and Sport

Issue 18 Non verbal communication

Current Research Projects

How does autism develop over time?

Autism is a genetic developmental disorder yet very few studies have investigated how autism develops over time. Examining how autism develops across the lifespan is important to predict outcomes. This study offers an innovative approach to establish how the three main areas of difficulty in ASD, (i) repetitive behaviours, (ii) sensory impairments and (iii) social difficulties, unfold over time. The findings from this study will enable us to understand which difficulties present at different points in the life-span.

The results of this study can be downloaded here: Developmental trajectory summary

How does autism develop over time?

Barriers to employment in autism

Despite the many qualities of people with ASD, people with ASD find it difficult to find a job, hold a job and switch jobs often. This study investigates the main barriers people with autism encounter when accessing the job market, why they find it difficult to retain a job and what has been the impact of the Adult Autism strategy. In particular, this study focuses on the extent to which employers make reasonable, necessary adjustments in the workplace for people with autism. This project is the result of a collaboration with the Wales Autism Research Centre, Portsmouth City Council and Hampshire County Council. 

You can download a research report summarising the results of this project here Employment report

Barriers to employment

Prosody and auditory processing

Speech and language difficulties are one of the defining characteristics in autism spectrum conditions (ASC). However, explanations of exactly why this is the case are still contradictory. One of the factors that seems to be crucial for language is prosodic ability, yet this ability has not been sufficiently researched in ASC. We are currently running a series of studies to explore the role that different acoustic parameters play in speech perception and production in order to establish their relationship with speech and language difficulties in ASC. 

The results of these studies can be downloaded here: Auditory processing research summary

Prosody and auditory processing

Eye-Tracking in autism

Tracking eye-movements helps us to find out where people preferentially attend to when looking at a picture or a film. Tracking eye-movements is possible by using a camera that tracks the cornea as it is searching a visual display.  This research study investigates where adults with ASC look when looking at videos of people performing everyday simple actions like reaching out for something.  Understanding attentional preferences of adults with ASC can gives us valuable information about attentional patterns and social understanding.

The results of this study can be downloaded here: Eye tracking summary

Eye-Tracking in autism

Members and collaborators

Collaborators

  • Marco Benvenuti (University of Portsmouth)
  • Alex Díaz (Universidad Autonoma de Madrid)
  • María Muñoz-Serrano (Universidad Autonoma de Madrid)
  • Christy Evans (Portsmouth Autism Support Network)
  • Dominic Dew (Portsmouth City Council)
  • Karen Templeton-Mepstead (Hampshire Autism Society)
  • Encarnación Sarriá (Universidad de Educación a Distancia, Spain)
  • Linda Burgess (Hampshire County Council)
  • Ian McDonald (Southampton City Council)
  • Ann O'Brien (Isle of Wight Council)