GATFAR was formed as a reaction to the publication of the Lancet Commission on the future of care and clinical research in autism. The autistic people and autistic-led organisations that initiated GATFAR were concerned about the recommendations made by the Lancet Commission, which aimed to set directions for clinical autism research and the development of service systems globally. Neither the Commission’s portrayal of autism as a whole, nor their ideas of what types of research could be most beneficial to autistic people, agreed with our views or those of the majority of autistic people known to us.
What GATFAR accomplished
As a response to the Lancet Commission paper, GATFAR members authored an open letter and an article.
The open letter was published on a number of organization websites around the world on 14 February 2022. It was originally signed by 25 autistic people’s organizations and translated to several languages. Following publication, many other groups and organizations published endorsements and further translations.
The article, Autistic perspectives on the future of clinical autism research, was published as a guest editorial in the journal Autism in Adulthood in June 2022. Thanks to support from the Inclusive Academia Project of the University of Tokyo, it was published as an open access article.
Since its publication, the article has been translated to several languages by autistic volunteers. For links to translations, see the article page.
The composition and development of GATFAR
The formation of GATFAR was started by a small number of autistic people in late 2021. This initial small group invited others in their networks, known to have relevant knowledge and expertise, and these in turn invited more participants. The result was an ad hoc committee created though a ‘snowballing’ process.
Those invited to participate fell into two categories, representatives of autistic-led organisations and autistic people with relevant professional or academic expertise. The latter included autistic researchers, scholars, clinicians, and professionals in social work, education, psychology and other fields.
There were GATFAR members in parts of North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Oceania. Of the total number of 46 members, 38 appeared as authors of the Autistic Perspectives article, while eight participated in other ways only.
Working under time constraints and with minimal resourcces, we could reach only a tiny fraction of all the autistic people, communities and organizations that could have provided valuable contributions. We are aware that there are numerous others who are equally qualified and entitled to comment on clinical autism research. As it was, GATFAR provided a starting point and a model that we hope will inspire future work to amplify autistic voices and give us meaningful roles in the discourse on autism research.