We provide comprehensive news and analysis of advances in autism research. Through our work, we hope to catalyze new collaborations and perspectives on autism.
We sift through the steady stream of autism papers and highlight the most noteworthy. Our deeply reported news articles explain the context and impact of each finding. We also turn to experts in the field for their opinions on trends or controversies in autism research.
Spectrum began in 2008 as the News & Opinion section of SFARI.org. In the summer of 2015, we spun off to create an independent online identity. As we evolved over the years, we experimented with various types of articles and added dozens of voices — but one thing that has never wavered is our commitment to provide accurate and objective coverage of autism research. We invite you to add your voice to that important conversation.
Funding for Spectrum comes from the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI), but our team is editorially independent. The articles we produce do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation’s scientific staff.
SFARI’s mission is to improve the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders by funding innovative research of the highest quality and relevance. Launched in 2003, SFARI is an initiative within the Simons Foundation‘s suite of scientific programs.
Praise for Spectrum
“Spectrum is a beacon on the Internet. I know that among autism scientists it’s absolutely the go-to place.”
— Francesca Happé, professor of cognitive neuroscience, King’s College London
“My favorite source for autism news.”
— Dan Kennedy, assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences, Indiana University
“I wanted to take a moment to commend the members of your editorial team for their outstanding coverage of the Society for Neuroscience conference. The clarity of the writing, the timeliness and the sheer quantity of coverage have been phenomenal. I have learned so much that I feel like I was actually at the conference. Your website is truly an invaluable resource for the autism community.”
— Alison Singer, president, Autism Science Foundation
“Spectrum gets at exciting big questions in systems neuroscience in general, as well as how they apply to autism.”
— Samuel Wang, professor of neuroscience and molecular biology, Princeton University
“Spectrum is required reading for every trainee in my lab.”
— Brian O’Roak, assistant professor of molecular and medical genetics, Oregon Health & Science University
“Your news reports from the International Meeting for Autism Research and the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting have been terrific. It is remarkable how quickly you absorb and synthesize so much conference information on a diversity of topics.”
— Jacqueline Crawley, professor of psychiatry, MIND Institute, University of California, Davis
“These stories are really important to let others know what is in the pipeline. Spectrum is widely read by clinicians and families.”
— Shafali Jeste, assistant professor of psychiatry and neurology, University of California, Los Angeles
“First off, thanks for a wonderful website and resource. As a parent of an autistic child, it is one of the few places on the Web where autism information can be viewed objectively and without massively technical language.”
— Aneil Saraf, parent of a child with autism
“I’m a big fan. I am trying to find someone to translate in French. The news on the site is really great and really very educational even for nonscientists.”
— Thomas Bourgeron, professor of genetics, Institut Pasteur
Words matter to us at Spectrum. As journalists, we know they have the power not only to inform and educate, but also to shape cultural attitudes. That’s why it’s important to us to use language that is respectful of the autism community and reflects current usage in the field.
We have made changes to our style guide over the past several years. For example, we now call autism a condition rather than a disorder or a disease; we refer to those in a study as participants rather than subjects; and we never refer to anyone with a condition as not ‘normal.’
Until 2018, Spectrum’s style was to use person-first language (‘person with autism’) when referring to people on the spectrum. The rationale for this language is to put a person’s humanity first, before their condition. We adopted this style based on recommendations from the American Psychological Association and the National Center on Disability and Journalism, and based on what professionals in the field tend to use.
But language evolves, and many people in the autism community now strongly prefer identity-first language (‘autistic person’). This terminology embraces autism as part of a person’s identity rather than a condition that is separate from them. Some professionals are also beginning to prefer this language. The style guide of the National Center on Disability and Journalism no longer recommends person-first language. Instead, it simply recommends asking a person how they prefer to be identified.
In light of this shift, as of July 2018 we use person-first and identity-first language interchangeably. As always, if a writer expresses a preference, we will defer to that. Our writers will also start asking sources on the spectrum how they prefer to be identified in a story.
We believe using person-first and identity-first language interchangeably is the most inclusive choice, as it makes room for both preferences. Our intention underlying both approaches is the same: to write about autism in a way that is accurate, clear and respectful.