Considering Methodological Accommodation to the Diversity of ASD: A Realist Synthesis Review of Data Collection Methods for Examining First-Person Experiences

  • David B. NicholasEmail author
  • Jesse D. Orjasaeter
  • Lonnie Zwaigenbaum
Review Paper


Drawing on a realist synthesis approach, this review identified qualitative data collection approaches that inform “first-person” lived experience in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) across phenotypic expression. It further drew upon methodologic approaches used in other conditions that similarly represent individuals with impaired verbal expression. The aim of this realist synthesis approach was to identify methods with relevance to participants across the autism spectrum. Methods that emerged for eliciting first-hand perspectives consisted of photovoice, Talking Mats, “deep assessment,” SenseCam, and TimeSlips. Applying these methodologies in ASD has the potential to advance knowledge about the quality of life, priorities and needs of people with ASD, and advanced qualitative approaches beyond methods that are not inclusive of cognitive and expressive diversity.


Autism Methods Cognitive diversity Communicative diversity Realist synthesis 



We want to acknowledge with gratitude the input of Dr. Mayada Elsabbagh, Ms. Rackeb Tesfaye, Dr. Pat Mirenda, Dr. Stelios Georgiades, and Dr. Peter Szatmari in support of this work.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Social Work, Central and Northern Alberta RegionUniversity of CalgaryEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Department of Pediatrics, Division of Developmental PediatricsUniversity of Alberta, Glenrose Rehabilitation HospitalEdmontonCanada

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