Research Methods

The interviews featured in this project were conducted from January to July 2022 with autistic adults living in the United States. Participants were recruited based on their involvement in autistic advocacy.

Interviews were semi-structured and adapted for each participant’s conversation style and preferences. Interviewees were asked to select their preferred interview format, with most of the interviews taking place over Zoom and a few being conducted in a written format. I asked participants to share about their current or most important interest and the role that it played in their life. Then we discussed any other interests and how these had changed over time, as well as their thoughts about the term “special interest” and what they thought people should know about autistic interests.

At the end of each interview, we talked about how each participant’s interest could be represented in knitting. This could involve knitting a particular item and/or using colors or symbols that were particularly relevant. Based on this discussion, I drafted a knitting pattern for each participant and sent it to them for their feedback. Making changes to the pattern when necessary, I then knitted the objects featured on this site. Each participant received their finished item and was given the opportunity to provide any additional feedback or thoughts about this research project.

After reviewing the interview transcripts, key quotes were selected to include in a written summary alongside photographs of each item. These summaries were shared with participants prior to being published. When participants’ names are included in these summaries, it is to credit them for their knowledge. Participants were also allowed to remain anonymous if they preferred. 

This research project was approved by Purdue University’s Institutional Review Board, and additionally followed the relevant best practices suggested by AASPIRE (Academic Autism Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education).