Gunter, C., Sinha, C. B., Jaquess, D.

Jan 5, 2021
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As a high prevalence disorder with limited information about etiology, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has been marked by confusion and miscommunication around its causes and treatments. To promote high-quality science communication, we participated in a local science festival, both providing information about the brain and ASD and asking passersby questions about their knowledge of ASD. We then asked the booth staffers to evaluate the program and conducted qualitative analyses of public and staffer responses. Public responses to the question "what would you like to know about autism?" most often concerned how the disorder was diagnosed or defined. In contrast, public responses to the question "what would you like others to know about autism?" centered around educating those unaffected by ASD on how to improve interactions and awareness, mentioning inclusivity and intersectionality, and dispelling negative stereotypes. The staffers overwhelmingly reported that in future years, they would include even more science and allow for more in-depth conversations with interested parties, as well as bringing materials in other languages. These responses are in keeping with a trend for more inclusive science communication, particularly in the field of behavioral health and ASD, and a desire to challenge myths around the condition. We conclude that our science festival interactions brought multiple benefits to public and staff.

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