American Educational Research Association > SIG113 > Autism Spectrum Research Committee
Autism Spectrum Research Committee
Autism Spectrum Research Committee Goals:

A Subcommittee of SIG #113

The Neurodiversity and Autism Research in Education Committee (NAREC) are enthusiastically  planning  Zoom meetings for the 2022-2023 academic year. At each meeting we aim to focus on our vision and one of our committee goals.


Wednesday November 10, 2021 4pm PST/ 7pm EST. 

  • In this meeting we were joined by Dr. Vikram Jaswal, Professor of Psychology, University of Virginia, for a follow-up discussion of themes raised in his recent presentation at the  UC Davis Neurodiversity Summit.

Wednesday June 16, 2021 3pm PST/ 6pm EST

  • This meeting was a discussion style workshop in which members shared neurodiversity initiatives emrging within their K-12+ education settings.
  • Thank you participating committee members, for providing rich discussion points and ideas for supporting neurodivergent students and staff in our educational settings.

Wednesday October 28, 2020 3pm EST

  • During this meeting, we  focused on the committee's fourth goal; working together across research methodologies.
  • Thank you to Elizabeth Torres, Director of the NJ Autism Center of Excellence for sharing her transformative research emphasizing the motor aspects of autism and removing barriers to understanding delayed neurodevelopment.

Wednesday April 29th 2020 3pm EST  

  • During this meeting, we  focused on the committee's third goal; developing research to inform practice
  • Thank you to Kristie Asaro-Saddler and Matt Zajic for sharing their research insights and strategies on teaching writing to individuals on the autism spectrum

Wednesday February 5th 2020 3pm EST 

  • During this meeting we focused on the committee's second goal; promoting access to equitable opportunities.
  • Thank you Dr. Edlyn Pena (California Lutheran University) for sharing impactful research and experiences working with individuals who use methods other than speech to communicate. 

Wednesday October 2019  3pm EST  

  • During this meeting, we focused on the committee's first goal; collaboration through participatory research
  • Thank you to Dr.  Heather Brown (University of Alberta) for sparking an impactful discussion on participatory research and neurodiversity during our October 2019 meeting. 

Link to join the committee and receive updates:


Autism Spectrum Research Committee Goals:


(updated and approved on Nov 15 2022)

  • Promote access to equitable and inclusive opportunities for neurodivergent and autistic individuals through understanding and specialized supports
  • Contextualize disability from a neurodiversity perspective 
  • Investigate intersections of autism and other identities, such as gender, class, race/ethnicities, and sexuality
  • Take a strength-focused approach to providing universally designed supports and remove socially constructed barriers to enhance quality of life 
  • Build education to employment pipelines
  • Foster self-awareness, self-efficacy, and self-esteem



(updated and approved on Nov 15 2022)

  • Include the voices of neurodivergent and autistic individuals from across the lifespan as co-researchers 
  • Establish a community forum featuring research by neurodivergent and autistic scholars and their allies
  • Encourage researchers to use participatory research methods through synchronous and asynchronous sharing of resources and recommended practices
  • Highlight participatory scholarly research that has the potential to impact policy and practice

(updated and approved on Nov 15 2022)

  • Foster conversations around research that aims to identify and address research to practice gaps around neurodiversity and autism
  • Learn from the voices of various stakeholders (including autistic individuals, families, professionals, employers, and community members) to better understand the needs in the field
  • Conduct neurodiversity and autism focused research that seeks to improve the well-being of autistic and neurodiverse people as defined by them 
  • Promote intervention research that is applicable to home, school, work and community settings 
Autism Spectrum Research Committee Leadership:

Chair - Dr. Heather M. Brown was originally trained as an elementary school teacher, but she is now an Associate Professor in the Dept. of Educational Psychology at the University of Alberta. She is also an autistic professional who studies autism. Her AIDAN lab aims to uncover strategies to support the academic achievement and overall well-being of children, youth and adults on the autism spectrum. By doing so, her research is poised to empower autistic individuals to be more self-confident in their neurodiversity and to develop a better understanding of the factors that most support their well-being at home, work and school. 



Co-chair - Dr. Amy Accardo is the faculty director of the Center for Neurodiversity and a tenured associate professor in the Interdisciplinary and Inclusive Education Department at Rowan University. Her scholarly activities focus on promoting equitable education opportunities for autistic young adults and working with neurodivergent students, faculty and staff to implement inclusive pedagogy and practices on campus. She has published numerous articles and presents research nationally on autism and topics including college access, literacy, teacher preparation, and mental health. 



Secretary/Treasurer - Maria A. Kofke

Committee Officer - Dr. Matthew C. Zajic is an Assistant Professor in the Intellectual Disability/Autism Program and faculty in the Applied Sciences of Learning and Special Education Cluster at Teachers College, Columbia University. He earned his PhD in Education (Learning and Mind Sciences) from the University of California, Davis and completed a predoctoral fellowship in psychometrics and assessment of special populations (Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need, US Department of Education) as well as a postdoctoral fellowship in autism and education (National Center for Special Education Research, Institute of Education Sciences). His research focuses on understanding and supporting the writing development of individuals on the autism spectrum, with specific attention to theory, measurement and assessment, and instruction. He is broadly interested in language and literacy development, educational and special educational practices, and lifespan perspectives to conceptualizing and measuring writing development. He teaches courses on assessment and evaluation, writing development and instruction, and language and literacy development in special populations 



Committee Officer: Dr. Kristie Asaro-Saddler is an Associate Professor in the Division of Special Education and the Division of Educational Psychology and Methodology at the University at Albany. Her research focuses on writing instruction and support for autistic students, with a focus on the self-regulatory components of writing.  She has numerous publications in autism, special education and writing journals and has presented her works at international, national and regional conferences. She teaches courses on autism and effective practices for teachers of students with disabilities. Prior to joining the faculty at the University at Albany she was a special education teacher for children with autism and developmental disabilities.  


Graduate Student Chairs- Nick Denomey and Maria A. Silva

Nick Denomey - Nick Denomey is a graduate student at the University of Alberta, focused on a M.Ed. in Special Education. Nick uses community-based participatory research, alongside an Autism Community Partnership, to study, address, and highlight the lived experiences of Canadian Autistic women. As a research and evaluation assistant at the University of Alberta, Nick is a proponent of collaborative and neurodiversity focused research. Nick will be beginning a Master’s of Public Health program in Health Promotion in the fall of 2022. His research aspirations include evaluating autism-focused community-based programs for their impact on the wellbeing of autistic community members. 


Maria A. Silva - Ms. Maria A. Silva is a Doctoral Candidate at Florida International University and is a recipient of the Project INCLUDE fellowship, funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). She currently works as a Clinical Support Administrator for UM-NSU Center for Autism and Related Disabilities. Previously, she was a special education teacher in a large, urban school district for 15 years. She is the mother of two boys with disabilities. She holds an Educational Specialist degree in Special Education from Florida International University. Along with her role as Graduate Student Chair for the AERA Autism Spectrum Research Committee, she currently serves as Communications Editor for the Teacher Education Division-CEC Diversity Caucus. Her research interests include autism spectrum disorders and teacher preparation that centers around supporting students with disabilities in inclusive settings.


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