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Reflections on a STAR Placement

Recently, Lauren Paterson completed a 10-week placement with STAR as part of her MSc at the University of Stirling. While many of our placement students assist with our research projects, this year we tried a new placement which involved supporting the STAR team with our social media and public engagement activities – something we want to do lots more of! In this blog, Lauren reflects on her time with STAR.

My name is Lauren Paterson, and I am a student at the University of Stirling undertaking a Psychology (Conversion) MSc course. This course stood out amongst others due to the placement opportunity it provided, as it was important for me to gain practical skills and knowledge within Psychology and make an impact. I sought and secured a placement with Stirling Autism Research, as a Communications Assistant, beginning my placement in April.

While I had witnessed the strengths and challenges for an autistic family member throughout their education and into employment, I had no knowledge of what constituted autism research and community issues before I started this placement. What immediately struck me as I began my placement was my lack of awareness of basic autism knowledge and terminology, such as the general preference for identity-first language. Although I was very new to autism research when I started this placement, I was pleased to find that many autism research articles catered to non-experts, providing lay overviews below the abstract. While I found most articles to be accessible, at times I was overwhelmed by the contentious nature of topics spanning terminology to autism research conventions. Grasping these divisive topics was a steep learning curve, however, I was grateful to have been exposed to these controversies that I would have been otherwise ignorant to, and became passionate about spreading awareness and being a more effective supporter of autistic people.

As a Communications Assistant at STAR, I worked alongside Dr Eilidh Cage developing Twitter schedules, blog posts and YouTube videos. Over my 10-week placement, we were able to increase traffic across STAR social media accounts, and I am happy with the progress we have made and especially proud to have created accessible content that can hopefully reach many different people, through our series of digestible video summaries of STAR research articles. You can check out the first video I made here, and more will be released on the STAR YouTube channel in the months to come!

I am very grateful for the support of Dr Eilidh Cage and Dr Monique Botha throughout this placement, I have learnt so much that I can take with me and apply in the future. I will be very sad to leave STAR however, I am proud to played a small part in the important work they do in order to foster a more inclusive and accepting society for neurodivergent people.