post by David Simmons, SARG Committee member.
It was in the Autumn of 2003 that I discovered the Scottish Autism Research Group. I had recently become interested in autism, having read Patricia Howlin’s book “Children with Autism and Asperger Syndrome” and Lorna Wing’s “The Autistic Spectrum”. However, as I wasn’t originally trained as a psychologist I had no formal academic knowledge of autism, and I hadn’t managed to find any local seminars to go to. By chance, a flyer for the next meeting of SARG alighted in my inbox (I can’t remember now whether it was from a circular or forwarded by a colleague), but I duly got the train to Edinburgh and went to my first ever research meeting on autism. It was quite an eye-opener for me! Evelyn, Katie, Maria and Juan-Carlos (the organizers) were very friendly and the talks very interesting.
Two things struck me at that very first meeting. One was the lack of a sensible neural theory of autism to complement the many cognitive theories that seemed to be flying about. The second was the large number of confusing acronyms. This was the time when I didn’t know my ADIs from my ADOSes and DISCOs! Gradually over the next few years of regular attendance at SARG meetings I began to pick up the lingo of the field and work out my own way into it. I remember particularly inspiring talks by such luminaries as Sue Leekam, Cathy Lord, Warren Jones and Declan Murphy complemented by interesting and thought-provoking discussion sessions and some useful networking. I became increasingly fascinated by the, at the time, rather neglected sensory aspects of autism and felt that I could contribute to the area myself. A few years later Frank Pollick and myself managed to get a research grant and a couple of PhD students working in the area, who also benefited from attending SARG meetings. A couple years more and we began to publish our first papers in the field. My first invited talk about autism was at one of the last meetings of SARG 1.0 in October, 2010. By then I had started to teach a final-year option course on autism and was increasingly involved in the field, and have now reached the point where my primary research focus is perception in autism.
Thanks, SARG, for being the inspiration for this change of research direction and I look forward to contributing to others’ research development in the field as a member of the committee of SARG 2.0!