We are Hiring: PhD full scholarship available

We are thrilled to announce the opening of a new PhD position looking at Autism inclusion in society at the Interaction Design Centre, University of Limerick, Ireland. The position is part of a European doctoral network funded by a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action: “Reworlding: Repositioning Participatory Design to Tackle Socio-Environmental Challenges”. The general theme links 11 PhD candidates, providing them with collective learning opportunities and individual secondments. The overall theme of the doctoral training network is as following:

Socio-Environmental issues are experienced differently by different actors, communities and organisations, leading to societal polarisation and inhibiting urgently needed actions around these issues. As Participatory Design (PD) researchers, we observe a need for design approaches that can bring diverse actors together to tackle these challenges in participatory ways, with particular attention to those who remain silent, both as human and non-human actors (e.g. plants, rivers and insects). REWORLDING doctoral network aims to investigate and outline such a careful and situated PD approach that can better understand and create synergies between the different worlds in which people live and work, and the more-than-human worlds they are entangled with. This is achieved through interdisciplinary methodology based on collective learning and participatory action research, embedded in inter-sectoral collaborations with non-academic partners who address socio-ecological issues from diverse perspectives. The programme includes the Retracing lecture series, Reconnecting methods training, Reimagining summer schools, Reinstitutioning webinars and Reworlding assemblies. Through articulated pathways to gain impact, we will be connecting the project activities with various stakeholders at different scales and with relevant programmes at European and international level (such as SDGs and European Green Deal).

Project: Reworlding neuro-diversity in society This project will look at current practices, services and discourses around autism inclusivity in society via collaboration with the two largest Charities for Autism in the Republic of Ireland: Aslam based in Dublin (asiam.ie) and ASD Ireland based in Limerick (www.asdireland.ie). The PhD student will be seconded to these organisations to map their practices and caring strategies, and the network of involved stakeholders. The study will identify best practices but also limits and barriers to inclusivity, and will explore participatory approaches to progress and evolve the provision of services/infrastructures/platforms supporting neuro-diversity and inclusive environments in a sustainable fashion. The student will be expected to travel for workshops and consortium meetings in Belgium, Italy, Sweden, and Denmark . During the first three years, there will also be one secondment outside Ireland to one of the organisations forming part of the Reworlding consortium: University of Aalborg in Denmark. There is a budget for travel. For more details of the specific position and what is expected, please see the website describing the 11 studentships: www.uhasselt.be/reworlding
A full description of the position with eligibility criteria (important) is available here: https://ixuxdesign.csis.ul.ie/reworlding/Reworlding_post_asd_CS.docx

Please note important MSCA Eligibility criteria

  • According to the project funder’s regulations, the applicants must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Ireland for more than 12 months in the 36 months immediately before their recruitment date. Compulsory national service, short stays such as holidays, and time spent as part of a procedure for obtaining refugee status under the Geneva Convention are not taken into account;
  • The candidate should also NOT be in possession of a doctoral degree at the date of the recruitment.

  • Project-specific selection criteria
  • Experience/Interest in Inclusion, autism, neuro-diversity, sustainability;
  • The candidate’s qualifications or equivalent work experience in design, human computer interaction, STS (Science and Technology Studies), community development, sociology, anthropology, or other relevant fields;
  • Experience with community engagement, and co-design or participatory design.

  • Application Applicants should electronically submit:
  • CV (including the names of two referees);
  • cover letter detailing their qualifications, research experience and motivation;
  • scans of diplomas, transcript of records and other certificates relevant for the position;
  • portfolio of previous relevant projects and work related to the specific criteria of the doctoral network and position.

  • to Dr. Cristiano Storni (Cristiano.storni@ul.ie). Applications must be received no later than 15th of December 2023.

    SEMINAR: Co-design with minimally verbal children,
    with Dr. Cara Wilson

    This talk will provide insight into participatory design in the context of autism-specific primary school contexts, exploring how to better support the integration of non-verbal and minimally verbal design contributions into the design process. Both the conceptual and technological outcomes of four years of fieldwork will be discussed, including tangible technologies such as the ExpressiBall and methodological innovations such as the CoDesign Beyond Words approach. The talk will conclude with speculations on new directions for interaction design which endeavours to move beyond the verbal.

    Dr Cara Wilson is a Lecturer in Children and Technology and a founding member of the Children, Interaction, and Design Group in the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. With a background in Human-Computer Interaction and Psychology, she explores how to better support inclusion and diversity in the development of technologies which pervade children's lives, for example, working with neurodiverse children in primary school contexts. Through creative, explorative and participatory design methods, her research endeavours to support the strengths, voice, and agency of individuals who are often overlooked in the process of design, particularly the design of emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Tangible User Interfaces.

    SEMINAR: Authentically Autistic: My Journey towards Self-Acceptance

    To mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the Human Rights Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Department in UL are welcoming our very own Melissa Mooney for a webinar entitled ‘Authentically Autistic: My Journey towards Self-Acceptance’. Melissa is an autistic and dyspraxic self-advocate. She holds a BA in Applied Languages from the University of Limerick, and is a member of the Autism@UL Special Interest Group. She works with businesses globally to develop accessible, authentically inclusive hiring programmes for neurodivergent people and people with disabilities. She strives to help deepen wider society's understanding of neurodiversity and has written and spoken on a wide variety of topics, including autistic pride, self-acceptance and masking.

    We wish to congratulate and thanks our member Melissa Mooney for her insightful webinar sharing her journey to autism acceptance on Friday. Some top tips from the talk include:

  • You are the world’s leading expert when it comes to you.
  • To connect with people who have lived experience of autism follow the Twitter hashtag #ActuallyAutistic.
  • Small acts of kindness go a long way.
  • If someone discloses their diagnosis to you then an appropriate response would be “Thank you for sharing with me and trusting me with this information.”
  • If you are a neurotypical student and you notice that someone is frequently on their own then consider inviting them to do something with you and your friends, e.g., going to the cinema or for tea and a chat.

  • There was great interest in Melissa’s current role in recruitment and hopefully Melissa may run a Lunch and Learn session with UL’s HR division in the New Year.

    Seminar's Flyer can be downloaded here

    SEMINAR: Autism and the City

    The Autism@UL Special Interest Group (SIG) welcomes Keith McAllister, Director of Architecture and Planning, School of Natural and Built Environment, Queen's University Belfast. Keith will reflect on the need to introduce change into the environment in order to create inclusive spaces for living and learning.
    Keith’s ongoing academic research is focussed broadly on the relationship between Architecture and Fear, especially for those populations without a voice. As the extremely proud father of a wonderful autistic son, his particular interest is in the relationship between architecture and autism.

    Autism@UL Webinar series: Autism and the City with Keith McAllister - 09/11/2022 from CSIS, University of Limerick on Vimeo.

    Seminar's slides can be downloaded here

    We are Hiring: PhD full scholarship available

    The Faculty of Science and Engineering, Department of Computer Science and Information systems, is inviting applications from qualified and highly motivated students for a PhD position in the Interaction Design Centre sponsored by the Faculty of Science and Engineering.
    The Interaction Design Centre is a multidisciplinary research group focused on the design, use and evaluation of interactive technologies in a variety of application areas including but not limited to health, education, cultural heritage, and collaborative work.
    The scholar will be required to register for a Structured PhD. The Department of computer science will provide space and facilities. The Faculty of Science and Engineering will provide the candidate with a new Personal Computer. Terms and conditions will apply. The financial support of the faculty will not extend beyond four years, and it is subject to the satisfactory academic progression of the PhD scholar.

    Short Description of the PhD Project

    The project aims at identifying the role of tangible and physical computing in autism early intervention through the augmentation of physical objects and toys with computational and communicational capabilities. The overall research question is: How can we augment physical objects and toys with computational and communicational capabilities to support autism early intervention? This project is critical of the growing enthusiasm application of touch-screens and screen-based interaction in various educational settings including early interventions in autism, and it argues for an approach to computing and interactive technology that augments physical objects and environments to better suit the expressiveness and richness of human interaction with the physical world. The project intends to open up untapped possibilities to better suit the needs and the strengths of autistic children in both educational and domestic settings, and equip them and their carers with physical tools that could better support sensory integration, regulation, fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, joint attention, language, social skills, etc.


    The research and design process is proposed to be iterative and human-centred starting with background research, followed by design explorations, with iterative prototyping and testing. The project intends to design not only for those involved in autism early interventions, but also with them including but not limited to the children. In this sense, the candidate is expected to engage with various stakeholders involved in autism care and early intervention and use participatory methods, tools and techniques to design and evaluate proposed solutions. Of particular interest here is the translation of knowledge from early intervention (especially play-based therapy, strength-based and child-led approaches) to participatory research and design in HCI.

    Supervisory Team

    The project will be supervised by Dr. Storni, lecturer in Interaction design at the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems. Dr. Salsberg, senior lecturer in Primary Healtcare research - public and patient involvement (PPI) in the School of Medicine will act as joint supervisor. The candidate is expected to join and work in close collaboration with the Autism@UL Special Interest Group at the University of Limerick (https://ulautismsig.ul.ie/). The Autism@UL SIG is an interdisciplinary group of people with an interest on autism and autism research: researchers, therapists, family members, autistic students and staff, as well as representatives of autism family organisations in and around Limerick. Within UL the group includes senior Principal Investigators, early career researchers and PhD students from across the University’s faculties and institutions including the Bernal Institute, CSIS, Education, Health Research Institute, the School of Allied Health, KBS and PESS. The SIG will offer access to professionals expertise, family experiences and autistic individuals perspectives.

    How to Apply

    Applications must be submitted via email to Cristiano.storni@ul.ie. Deadline for submission has been extended to the first half of 2023. Applications will be processed on an ongoing basis. Shortlisted candidates will be called for interview early September 2022. Applications must be submitted as a single PDF file, in English, including:
  • A Curriculum Vitae, including scholarly publications if available;
  • A motivational statement (max two pages) explaining why you applied, how your research interest fit with the project, how the Interaction Design Centre and UL could foster your career development; and describing your skills and areas of expertise;
  • Names and contact information for 2 academic referees;
  • A portfolio of works or a writing sample;
  • Copies of University degree or study transcripts.

  • Starting date should be no later than December 1st 2022.
    UL is an equal opportunities employer. Work at UL includes respectful treatment of each other, with gender, nationality, religion, disability, age, cultural origin, and sexual identity playing no role. The ideal candidate:

  • Offers a balance between social research and design/prototyping skills in Human Computer Interaction and Experience design;
  • Has a strong master’s degree in computer science or another area related to Human-Computer Interaction,
  • Has excellent written and oral communication skills,
  • Has excellent software and/or hardware skills,
  • Is familiar with, or interested in autism, intervention, and physical computing,
  • In the spirit of participation and inclusion, we warmly invite applications from neurodiverse candidates.

  • PUBLICATION: Autism spectrum disorders

    Autism spectrum disorders are developmental disorders. Individuals with autism spectrum disorders develop differently. These differences are usually present in social interaction, communication, and sensory processing, and become visible through a wide variety of behavioral responses that differ from individuals without autism spectrum disorders. Despite significant research efforts, the exact causes of autism spectrum disorders remain poorly understood; however, researchers have gained extensive insights into possible pathomechanisms, even at the molecular level of cells. Many diagnostic criteria have been developed, adapted, and improved. The eight chapters in this book highlight the current state-of-the-art in many areas of autism spectrum disorders. Chapter 1 provides an overview of the epidemiology of autism spectrum disorders and the current knowledge of the underlying pathogenic mechanisms. Chapter 2 summarizes the diagnostic criteria and procedures and highlights present and upcoming therapeutic strategies. Chapter 3 reviews the adverse events and trauma in people with autism spectrum disorders. Chapters 4 and 5 focus on atypical sensory processing, and Chapter 6 discusses the genetic overlap of autism spectrum disorders with other neuropsychiatric disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, and schizophrenia. Chapter 7 focuses on the contribution of abnormalities in mitochondria, and chapter 8 discusses gut-brain interactions and a potential role for microbiota in autism spectrum disorders. This book is aimed primarily at clinicians and scientists, but many areas will also be of interest to the layperson.

  • Free access to Book Preface (click) by Andreas Grabrucker
  • Free access to Book Chapter (click) by Lornan Ronan, Storni Cristiano and Chiara Alessia De Benedectis
  • Autism spectrum disorders
    • Publisher : Exon Publications, Brisbane, Australia
    • Language: : English
    • Available Open access here (click)
    • ISBN: 978-0-6450017-8-5
    • ISBN-13 : 978-0128211328
    • DOI
    SEMINAR: A Foucauldian Discourse analysis to the history of Irish Education

    Since the birth of the Irish State, there have been three official terms for children with mental disabilities, ‘mental deficiency’, ‘mental handicap’ and ‘intellectual disability’. Each new term replaced the previous one; ‘mental deficiency’ became ‘mental handicap’, subsequently ‘mental handicap’ became ‘intellectual disability’. This thesis applied a Foucauldian Discourse analysis to the history of Irish Education to expose the hidden conditions that underpinned the aforementioned concepts, in order to answer the following questions: What factors brought a particular conceptual configuration in the classification of intellectual disability into play in the first instance? What made that configuration seem plausible and socially desirable? What changes or events happened that caused the conceptual configuration to be replaced? And did these changes cultivate marginalisation or demarginalisation? The first part of the analysis divided the history of Irish education into three different epistémè and labelled them, the Institution, the Birth of Special Education and the Birth of Social Inclusion. Foucauldian tools of analysis were applied to allow for the surfaces of emergence to be exposed and identified; thus, in turn revealing the frameworks of knowledge that were hidden underneath. This Webinar will discuss how the discourse analysis was applied and the main findings of the research.

    Slides of the presentations are available here

    PUBLICATION: New textbook focusing on trace metals in Autism

    New textbook focusing on trace metals in Autism: Biometals in Autism Spectrum Disorders.
    Dr. Grabrucker is the author of the first textbook on “Biometals in Autism Spectrum Disorders” (Academic Press/Elsevier). The book provides for readers an overview of current findings on trace metal biology with respect to its role in ASD etiology and discusses how abnormal trace metal biology may be a common factor of several genetic and non-genetic causes of ASDs considered unrelated in the past. This will open new vistas for the development of new therapies based on targeted manipulation of trace metal homeostasis and generate awareness that trace metal levels during pregnancy must be tightly monitored.

    Biometals in Autism Spectrum Disorders
    • Publisher : Academic Press; 1st edition
    • Language: : English
    • Paperback : 222 pages
    • ISBN-10 : 0128211326
    • ISBN-13 : 978-0128211328
    EVENTS: UL Mapathon

    We invite you to take part in a study exploring wellbeing and inclusion in the University of Limerick’s campus. We want to know where you enjoy spending time on campus and why. We also want to know where you do not like to spend time and gather ideas on how to improve UL’s campus. We are interested in the views of everyone who uses the campus. That includes staff and students, and members of the local community who spend time on campus. The UL campus includes the buildings, grounds and any space within the campus grounds. Please click on this link to access the UL Mapathon

    RESOURCES: Social Stories COVID19

    Social stories™ are short, simple stories that help people to understand what is going on ( Gray 2010). During this pandemic, there has been a lot of change. Social stories are very helpful to understand some of these changes. Second year Speech and Language Therapy students in UL, under the supervision of Lecturer Michelle O'Donoghue, have developed a series of social stories as requested by parents and autistic people and they are available for you to download (in both .pdf and editable version if you want to personalise the story).

  • Doing schoolwork at home for adolescent (donwload .pdf version here, and editable .docx version here)
  • Doing schoolwork at home for child (donwload .pdf version here and editable .docx version here)
  • I will wear a Face Mask for child (donwload .pdf version here, and editable .pptx version here
  • I will wear a Face Mask for adult of adolescent - Compulsory (donwload .pdf version here and editable .pptx version here)
  • I will wear a Face Mask for adult of adolescent - Non Compulsory (donwload .pdf version here and editable .pptx version here)
  • Talking to Gardai for adult (donwload .pdf version here and editable .pptx version here)
  • Talking to Gardai for child (donwload .pdf version here and editable .pptx version here)
  • Talking to Gardai Easy read (donwload .pdf version here and editable .docx version here)
  • Using hand sanitiser for adults and adolescents (donwload .pdf version here and editable .docx version here)
  • Using hand sanitiser for children (donwload .pdf version here and editable .docx version here)
  • Why are people wearing masks for adult or adolescent (donwload .pdf version here and editable .docx version here)
  • Why are people wearing masks for child (donwload .pdf version here and editable .docx version here)
  • Garda Checkpoint for drivers (donwload .pdf version here and editable .docx version here)
  • Garda Checkpoint for drivers (donwload .pdf version here and editable .docx version here)
  • Garda Checkpoint for passenger - Easy Read (donwload .pdf version here and editable .docx version here)
  • Supermarket for child (donwload .pdf version here and editable .docx version here)
  • Supermarket for adult (donwload .pdf version here and editable .docx version here)
  • AWARDS: Public and Patient Involvment Bursary

    Michelle, Keith, Cristiano and Caoilinn have been awarded with a PPI bursary. Our proposal aims to look at how the UL campus is used by those availing of it, and to inform future planning activities around inclusion, health and wellbeing on campus. The Autism@UL SIG will lead a crowdsourcing Mapathon to collect data about people’s sensory experiences on campus, as well as how people use the campus to support wellbeing. Ideas for enhancing the inclusivity of the campus environment will also be elicited. Existing templates for sensory audits will be used, alongside Open Street Mapping. Engaging in this research project will support our SIG to grow and develop, and will also showcase the impact that we can have.
    1) Gather, collate and disseminate crowdsourced data on the sensory environment in UL, including descriptions of how spaces are used to support wellbeing, and ideas for how to enhance existing structures in order to inform inclusive campus developments.
    2) Develop research methodology and project management skills of the Autism@UL SIG, thus facilitating growth as a participatory autism research group.
    3) Contribute to international literature on the use of Mapathons as a participatory research technique, and on how Mapathons can be used to inform future campus interventions in inclusion, health and wellbeing.
    We will start to work on this in June, stay tuned!

    EVENTS: Recycling Anxiety Event

    The ‘Recycling Anxiety’ event in collaboration with UL Environmental Health Committee was organised as a pop-up event linking with Climate change week and with the several recycling initiatives in UL. The pop up event was planned to take place on the 2nd of April which is World Autism Day (2nd of April). The event wanted to raise awareness of the anxiety that the lack of clear rules about recycling can generate in Autistic individuals. Being unsure about recycling rules can lead autistic individuals to anxiety about recycling and avoidance of the task. Autistic people experience the same issues as other people but it can be heightened. Can a wet disposable cup be recycled? We all need better rules. We wanted to argue for a strength-based focus on autism, and suggest that those who are thinking more about how to recycle are going to be better recyclers: Reduce anxiety, reuse kindness, recycle not waste for a better environment! Unfortunately the pop-up event had to be cancelled due to the UL campus Lock-Down.

    UPDATES: Autism@UL Memberships in UL Committees

  • UL environmental Committee as part of the Heahty UL Framework (Link Here);
  • Working group of the Equality and Human Rights sub-committee – Academic structures for students with a disability - as part of the Equality and Inclusion Strategy UL(ASSD - Link Here);
  • UL LAB advisory board - working proposal
  • EVENTS: Autism@UL Special Interest Group Launch

    In collaboration with StudentLife we have screened the Irish movie 'The Drummer and the Keeper' (link Here). An introduction of the Autism at UL Special Interest group and its initiatives has followed.
    The Drummer and the Keeper

    UPDATES: General initiatives

  • - Conduct an analysis on the supports available on campus for autistic students, and what additional supports are needed;
  • - Create online presence, brochures, and policy briefs;
  • - Encourage engagement with local NGOs (e.g. sport-for-all/Dochas/LAC, etc.) with the goal to educate, sensitise, raise awareness, and reduce the stigma (vs. stereotypes);
  • - Lobby for funds, multidisciplinary collaborations and research;
  • - Identify and contact possible sponsors with the aim to create a business plan that allows self sustainability after 3 years;
  • - Try to create/promote work opportunities for autistic adults on the UL campus (e.g. part-time opportunities);
  • - Establish a series of autism Liaisons (at Department and School level) for autistic students and staff;
  • - Organise symposium (attached to Autism conference);
  • - Campaigning for the development of a UL Inclusive/Accessible sensory playground/garden for all autistic and allotistic individuals availing of the UL Campus;
  • - Organise training camps and interdisciplinary workshops (train others in becoming Autism friendly Univ. as well).