Amber Pryke-Hobbes and Danae Malyan, Psychology undergraduates at the University of Kent, have just finished their placements at CRAE. Here, they talk about their work, what they learned, and what they hope to do next!

A young woman, back turned to viewer, says goodbye and begins a long journey on a dirt road. CRAE logo on right. Original image by Jose Antonio Alba, c/o Pixabay.com.

As we near the end of our placement at CRAE, it’s worth asking two questions. What did we do here, and what did we achieve?

Until Alexander (CRAE’s new Research Communication and Engagement Officer) arrived, we were helping with CRAE’s social media accounts. But we also each had our own placement project which was our main focus.

So, let’s outline them in turn, and then talk about our future plans!

DANAE

My placement project focused on autistic people’s priorities in current and future research in employment. All my participants were either seeking or already in employment. The main topics raised by my participants included the need for acceptance, recruitment difficulties and getting help during the employment transition period.

All in all, I analysed data from around 180 participants. They either self-identified as autistic or had a clinical diagnosis. One theme that stood out from my work was a desire for a job centre that would cater to autistic people and their needs.

Some participants compared this job centre to a kind of online dating. As in, you list what you’re good at and what you enjoy, and then you are matched up with a job opportunity.

Autistic participants also mentioned how they wished for less focus on ‘social skills’ in job descriptions.

AMBER

My project explored autistic adults’ experiences of ‘camouflaging’ in the workplace using a survey of around 300 people. I confirmed what other researchers have found: that camouflaging is used a great deal in order to integrate within the workplace, and avoid prejudice.

In fact, many participants felt that camouflaging was necessary to not only to progress in their careers, but to keep their jobs in the first place. Another common finding was that this is extremely exhausting to maintain over time.

The question I wanted to answer, however, was the difference between workplace and day-to-day camouflaging. I found that participants felt that camouflaging at work was much more stressful, as this meant having to do so for eight hours a day, five days a week, and with no rest apart from, for example, a five-minute toilet break.

What’s important is that employers and other colleagues may not be aware of what’s going on ‘under the surface’ for autistic employees. One way to bridge this gap in knowledge might be to provide employers with a factsheet that explains how camouflaging might be affecting their autistic employees, and how best to support them. Importantly, this would need to be designed and developed with the input of autistic employees.

OTHER PROJECTS

We both also worked on several other ongoing projects at CRAE. For example, we collaborated with one of CRAE’s Research Assistants (a former placement student), Jade Davies, on another employment-focussed research project.

As part of this, we put together a report mapping neurodiversity within two organisations. Here, we helped develop survey questions and undertook qualitative and quantitative analysis of the data we gathered. This culminated in a comprehensive neurodiversity report.

REVIEWS, CODING AND SEMANTICS

We also worked with CRAE’s artist in residence, Ali Northcott, on her public engagement project -“Entering the Neuroverse”. Using a series of digital and live activities, Ali has drawn on her own experiences of autism, dyslexia and ADHD to explore what it means to be human.

As part of this project, we conducted interviews with Chloe Farahar, a social justice activist from the University of Kent, and Siena Castellon, a neurodiversity advocate and former CRAE work placement student. We also had the chance to develop our own questions for this task.

In collaboration with other CRAE members, we’ve written book and movie reviews, which have since been published in The Psychologist, published by the British Psychological Society.

We’ve also had the opportunity to assist PhD students with their work. For example, we worked with Clare Truman to help her analyse newspaper articles about Pathological Demand Avoidance. We both worked with Clare from the beginning of our placement right through to the end. We enjoyed seeing Clare’s project develop as we learnt what did and didn’t work.

For example, we started off with a thematic analysis, but found that this wasn’t the best approach. So we moved to content analysis instead. Working with Clare has been a great learning curve!

GREATEST HITS

What did we really enjoy during our placement? It was working with the rest of the CRAE team. Even though a lot of this was done virtually (for obvious reasons), we still felt part of the team. It’s been great working here, and learning from everyone’s knowledge and areas of experience.

Finally, we’ve really enjoyed just being able to take part in so many different projects here. It has just been really amazing, and given us an insight into all these different approaches to research and the nuanced ways that every researcher goes about their work.

As told to Alexander Hay, Research Communication and Engagement Officer, CRAE.