Positive Approaches Journal | 8-13

Positive Approaches Journal - Volume 2 Title

Volume 11 ► Issue 1 ► May 2022

Data Discoveries

The goal of Data Discoveries is to present useful data using new methods and platforms that can be customized.

Data can be a critical element of storytelling. But it is not the only chapter of the book. Data, coupled with narrative, can paint a comprehensive picture of how one person’s experience reflects the larger context of how many people may be experiencing something. Utilizing data to inform areas of focus, and feedback from autistic individuals, the Life on the Spectrum workshop series was developed. With funding from the Eagles Autism Foundation, the virtual workshop series sought input from autistic individuals with various backgrounds and interests, to inform the format and content of the virtual workshop series. Based on their feedback and guidance, the Policy and Analytics Center (PAC) at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, supported and implemented five workshops focused on:

1.     Self-Advocacy

2.     Navigating Higher Education

3.     Sex Education and Dating

4.     Autism in Women

5.     Mental Health & Self-Care

It is common for informational trainings and workshops to be led by neurotypical people, but it was paramount that the Life on the Spectrum workshop series be different. Autistic self-advocates were involved from the very beginning of development through execution of the series, positioning their needs, interests, and perspectives at the center of content development and delivery. A self-advocate is an individual with a disability or disabilities who speaks or acts “on their own behalf or on behalf of other people with disabilities, whether the issue is personal (e.g., housing, work, friends) or related to public policy. 1” While some individuals may identify as a self-advocate, others may not. Despite how individuals may identify, a common theme that arose was the mutual support that speakers offered one another, even as they were meeting for the first time. This is not surprising though, as research has illustrated that autistic people felt better understood2, more belonging2, and experience good rapport3 when interacting with other autistic individuals as opposed to neurotypical people.

The data dashboard below shows theme-specific feedback and satisfaction with each session of the workshop series, as measured by attendee evaluation surveys. The first tab on the live site (Figure 1 below), ‘Life on the Spectrum Workshop Topics and Resources’ shows relevant resources and links where you can obtain more information.


To see a recording of the past sessions of Life on the Spectrum (note: some sessions were not recorded per the request of the presenters), please visit https://www.phillyautismproject.org/spectrum/. The videos are available with closed captioning and with subtitles in Spanish, Chinese, French, and Russian. The Policy and Analytics Center has been funded again by the Eagles Autism Foundation to develop another workshop series this year, focused on Aging and Autism. This theme was chosen based on feedback from participant surveys as well as autistic individuals who reach out voicing this need. If you want to be involved or learn more, please reach out to the Philadelphia Autism Project at phillyap@drexel.edu.



1.     Self-Advocacy Position Statement | The Arc. The Arc. Published April 7, 2019. https://thearc.org/position-statements/self-advocacy/.

2.     Crompton CJ, Hallett S, Ropar D, Flynn E, Fletcher-Watson S. “I never realized everybody felt as happy as I do when I am around autistic people”: A thematic analysis of autistic adults’ relationships with autistic and neurotypical friends and family. Autism. 2020;24(6):136236132090897. doi:10.1177/1362361320908976

3.     Crompton CJ, Ropar D, Evans-Williams CV, Flynn EG, Fletcher-Watson S. Autistic peer-to-peer information transfer is highly effective. Autism. 2020;24(7):1704-1712. doi:10.1177/1362361320919286

4.     Self-Advocacy and Leadership. www.aaidd.org. https://www.aaidd.org/news-policy/policy/position-statements/advocacy. Accessed August 10, 2020.

5.     Healthy People 2020 |. www.healthypeople.gov. https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/. Accessed August 10, 2020.