Participatory research in a pandemic: The impact of Covid-19 on co-designing research with autistic people

Danielle Rudd*, Se Kwang Hwang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
55 Downloads (Pure)


Social work research should adopt a critical approach to research methodology, opposing oppression that is reproduced through epistemological assumptions or research methods and processes. However, traditional approaches to autism research have often problematised and pathologized autistic1 individuals, reinforcing autistic people’s positions as passive subjects. This has resulted in autistic people being largely excluded from the production of knowledge about autism, and about the needs of autistic people. Participatory approaches promote collaborative approaches to enquiry and posit autistic people as active co-constructors of knowledge, a stance that is congruent with social work values of social justice and liberation. However, Covid-19 is not only altering our everyday life but also upending social research. This paper discusses the challenges faced by a participatory study involving autistic people during the Covid-19 pandemic. This paper examines how Covid-19 increased the individual vulnerability of autistic participants and changed their research priorities, increased the researcher’s decision-making power, and placed greater emphasis on barriers created by inaccessible methods. Covid-19 did not present novel challenges, but rather exacerbated existing tensions and inevitable challenges that are inherent in adopting an approach that aims to oppose oppression.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)869-879
Number of pages11
JournalQualitative Social Work: Research and Practice
Issue number5
Early online date10 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


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