Part 6: Funded. What Next?
We got the greenlight on our project, Increasing Career Placement for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): Identification and Dissemination of Best Practices. (Yes, that was a mouthful!) We understood our audience’s problem: high school and college faculty need to learn how to accommodate students who are autistic. We had our solution: create educational media that shows evidence-based practices for them to replicate. We had our team, even if it was more diverse in its outlook and less in accord with strategies than usual, to steward content development. We also knew we were behind in the conversations we needed to have with autistic students, though the full implications of this hadn’t revealed themselves yet.
Now that we had a budget to support research, the team searched in earnest for faculty working with autistic students transitioning from high school to college with the goal of establishing a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) career. The research we conducted on spec, prior to getting the green-light, involved reading posts and articles, talking to educators, and reflecting on classroom observations across our other projects. Now that our R&D was funded, we took a much deeper dive. We needed to empathize with our main audience of educators and fully understand their problems so we could develop solutions for them.
To continue our qualitative audience research, we dusted off the articles we used during our three years of proposal development. We had two categories of articles and data we collected. One painted a picture of high school students with ASD, which was mostly statistical. The other included the bright spots: course, program, and educator success stories. Even before we started the project, we had identified a number of successful high school and college ASD programs located throughout the country, so identifying a handful for inclusion in our series was easy.
Just like that, things were going in the right direction.