Autistography: remembering, reimagining, recreating

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: School of Health Sciences


My PhD hopes to work with autistic people perceived as women (FPAPs) to develop outcomes that can aid working through their life experiences in a structured, safe manner to create positive counter-narratives to those encountered in the past which often traumatise, marginalise or oppress those subject to them.

Research now shows that autistic people have many different gender identities, but are often still viewed by their friends, family, professionals and society as either men or women. For a long time, autism, as a condition, was understood medically to be a difference that only boys, and later boys and men, experienced. These two constructs of gender and clinical autism enable a gap between them that autistic FPAPs fall into where both their true gender identities and their autistic nature remains unknown to them. This has a devastating effect on an individual's mental health and personal identity, with significant consequences for those caught in this lost space.

This research will explore the experiences that form how FPAPs feel negatively about themselves and their life experiences. I aim to create outcomes and new knowledge that FPAPs can use to explore personal narratives and meaning making safely and creatively, using their personal digital data to gain perspective on their past, and hope for their future. FPAPs participating in research, and writing about their lives, have described the difference being identified/ diagnosed makes to them. They are more confident, feel validated and gain new knowledge of their past life and personal history knowing what they are, and why they have experienced their difficulties.

The amount and types of digital personal data available in the 21st century allows FPAPs to remember and explore their past and identity in ways that have meaning and relevance to them, whilst honoring their individual communication, information-processing and recall needs.

I hope to enable FPAPs to feel better about themselves and their lives as autistic people embedded in different ways of experiencing. I also aim to provide better understanding of this group to mental health professionals and services so they can better support and identify FPAPs in distress.

This author is supported by the Horizon Centre for Doctoral Training at the University of Nottingham (UKRI Grant No. EP/S023305/1) and by NIHR MindTech.

Planned Impact

We will collaborate with over 40 partners drawn from across FMCG and Food; Creative Industries; Health and Wellbeing; Smart Mobility; Finance; Enabling technologies; and Policy, Law and Society. These will benefit from engagement with our CDT through the following established mechanisms:

- Training multi-disciplinary leaders. Our partners will benefit from being able to recruit highly skilled individuals who are able to work across technologies, methods and sectors and in multi-disciplinary teams. We will deliver at least 65 skilled PhD graduates into the Digital Economy.

- Internships. Each Horizon student undertakes at least one industry internship or exchange at an external partner. These internships have a benefit to the student in developing their appreciation of the relevance of their PhD to the external societal and industrial context, and have a benefit to the external partner through engagement with our students and their multidisciplinary skill sets combined with an ability to help innovate new ideas and approaches with minimal long-term risk. Internships are a compulsory part of our programme, taking place in the summer of the first year. We will deliver at least 65 internships with partners.

- Industry-led challenge projects. Each student participates in an industry-led group project in their second year. Our partners benefit from being able to commission focused research projects to help them answer a challenge that they could not normally fund from their core resources. We will deliver at least 15 such projects (3 a year) throughout the lifetime of the CDT.

- Industry-relevant PhD projects. Each student delivers a PhD thesis project in collaboration with at least one external partner who benefits from being able to engage in longer-term and deeper research that they would not normally be able to undertake, especially for those who do not have their own dedicated R&D labs. We will deliver at least 65 such PhDs over the lifetime of this CDT renewal.

- Public engagement. All students receive training in public engagement and learn to communicate their findings through press releases, media coverage.

This proposal introduces two new impact channels in order to further the impact of our students' work and help widen our network of partners.

- The Horizon Impact Fund. Final year students can apply for support to undertake short impact projects. This benefits industry partners, public and third sector partners, academic partners and the wider public benefit from targeted activities that deepen the impact of individual students' PhD work. This will support activities such as developing plans for spin-outs and commercialization; establishing an IP position; preparing and documenting open-source software or datasets; and developing tourable public experiences.

- ORBIT as an impact partner for RRI. Students will embed findings and methods for Responsible Research Innovation into the national training programme that is delivered by ORBIT, the Observatory for Responsible Research and Innovation in ICT ( Through our direct partnership with ORBIT all Horizon CDT students will be encouraged to write up their experience of RRI as contributions to ORBIT so as to ensure that their PhD research will not only gain visibility but also inform future RRI training and education. PhD projects that are predominantly in the area of RRI are expected to contribute to new training modules, online tools or other ORBIT services.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/S023305/1 01/10/2019 31/03/2028
2445617 Studentship EP/S023305/1 01/10/2020 12/05/2026 Jenn Layton-Annable