Jessica K is an autistic researcher with a passion for engagement in psychological research on autism, specifically autistic neuro, perceptual and sensory systems.
Jessica K enjoys linking and uncovering patterns, hypothesising and investigating theories and experimenting with translating findings into applicable practice. Such applications include her prototype outdoor sensory space designed to be optimal for an autistic system by minimising uncertainty while enabling vestibular and proprioceptive input, fresh air and exercise. She is currently experimenting with adding a sound experience space to facilitate exploration of stimming and pressure of movement through sound. She designed The Autism Covid-19 Individual health Action Plan, a free visual resource for autistic individuals prepared to help clarify and navigate steps to a COVID-19 diagnosis and plan for hospital stays. You can find a link to the Action Plan here: https://www.thrivingautistic.org/covid/
When Jessica K is not working, researching or working on her sensory space, she enjoys dancing outside her house, looking up at the stars and listening to music or the clicking high pitched sound of bats. Daily breaks from work involve walking outside and listening to that electric buzz of life, of little feet and little leaves, crushing twigs breaking rustling in the trees, across the grass, the vibration of little wings breaking from flight and the steady melodic squawks of birds, interrupted by talking to the cows in the field and trying to spot Ben, the cat, who is not quite sure yet if he wants to be her friend. She also enjoys hanging out with Fred, the scholar and Emmet, the elephant, snug under a weighted blanket listening to audiobooks. From time to time, Jessica K enjoys hyper-focusing on inventing things, creating art, writing and attempting to play musical instruments and, most recently, growing far too many plants.
Jessica K believes in an approach to autism research and practice that takes a neutral perspective — similar to the difference between a diesel engine and a petrol engine. An autistic neurotype and a non-autistic neurotype have many similarities, but they also have many differences. Treating them both as the same will cause problems, as will treating one as a malfunction of the other. Respectful research must view different neurotypes as independently valid with a spectrum of contextually dependant strengths and challenges. Findings from such research can then be translated into the design and adaption of environments and societies that promote optimal functioning and outcomes for both.
Jessica K was diagnosed at age 17, before that she experienced many challenges and many uncertaintues, she felt sad and misunderstood, she felt frightened in this unpredictable world, she didn’t undertsand what made her different from others, she tried to seek help but struggled to find any that made sense to how she experienced the world, she pretended to be like other people but then found it hard to stop pretending, stop masking, the mask took over and she lost how to be herself in the world and could only be herself in her head. She hated the mask, She didn’t want to change and loose more of her self so at times when things got to hard she tried to stop life, because she would rather be her and stop living than to continue as somone else. Thankfully she found a way to stop pretending a way to figure herslef out, to really be herself and to be able to grow and thrive and to stop trying to change herself or let other people try change her, she was done with blaming herself, and she did all this by beng her, by asking questions and by having discussions and debates and following curiiosity path ways, some people might have siad she was cheeky or rude but she knew she had to find out how all this puzzle of life worked. And that is how she figured out she was autistic, her mother new first from the books she had on aiutism as a child, but Jessica didn’t get diagnosed till age 17 and it was ownderful news, by the time the “professionals” got there Jessica already new but now she could tell others too. And she ytold everyone like it was the best news she had ever had. This didn’t go down well sometimes, but it made so much sense of so much and now she had the tools to really be able to figure out the world, until she realised she did not, but then she realised she could find out more and study autsiim and create the tools and take them from the darkness of science and acdemics where it hard to understand witout a lot of work, and she new that it need it to be accesible, so iit could help others like her too. so even though she had never finished school, never sat her leaving cert she felt indomidable and was set on a mission to make an impact on how society viewed and supported and included the autistic community, at first it was suggested that she would never get to university because society made her believe without a leaving cert you could have no life or good future, but that did make sense to her, why if there are so many ways of being should there be only one way of doing? And Just because it is some way doesn’t mena it should be. If there was not nore paths then she would cretae more paths and fiind the hidden paths, so she did, she went to college to do tv and film and thought she could explore autsim visually through documentary, but from there she found autsim organistion and improved in a dyslexic school for adults so she would have the skills she missed in primary school when she was terified in school in a unpredicatble unsupported sensory overlaoding enviroment where it was impossible to learn any of the eductional information the best she could do was survive the school enviroment. but from learning she was autsitic and the empoverment that gave her to discovering different routes and learning with supports in place she really statrted to learn how much she loved learning and since then yes of course tehre have been more challenges to overcome, and there always will be but now she has a mission and a purpose and a plan and now she has finished univeristy:
Jessica K has attained an honours B.A. in psychology from Trinity College Dublin and is a graduate member (M.Ps.S.I) of the Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI), and is a committee member on the PSI Autism SIG. Jessica K is currently working as an assistant psychologist at the Adult Autism Practice and a Sensory Processing Project officer at Trinity College Dublin and an independent autism, sensory and neurodiversity consultant.
From 2019 to 2021, Jessica K’s focus has been on her international research into autistic perception, exploring the links between perception, cognition and anxiety in autistic adults through the lens of hierarchical predictive coding and investigating formats of thought in autistic adults. Jessica K presented this Research at INSAR 2021, has just had her abstract accepted to present a poster at the PSI 2021 conference and will be speaking at King college London, Neuroscience department, Sensory Processing special Interest group on Friday the 27th of August.
Jessica K is presently on a team exploring autistic individuals experience of psychiatric care. Jessica K recently helped organise and took part in a series of webinars on Autistic Women and Girls, and you can hear more about her research in this video from that event: team https://youtu.be/nEIbNPOmRhY Jessica K is also currently a member of the research team on two projects in DCU; A co-produced exploration of the experiences of Autistic individuals attending a third level education institution in Ireland and Autistic academic staff: A participatory autism research approach to exploring work place experience and educational practice at third level in Ireland.
In 2021 Jessica K has also become a director of Thiriving Autistic, a not-for-profit that exists to support the autistic community and promote and protect the human rights of autistic and neurodivergent people globally.
Jessica K has also took part in Trinity Ability Co-op film. On Defining disability, our stories which is a half hour documentary due to be released on the 3rd of September, in this Jessica talks about being autistic in university and her sensory perception of the world.
In her work as an assistant psychologist Jessica K is currently writing a book with her colleagues at the adult autism practice and will be a coauthor on The Neurodiversity Affirmative Adult Autism Assessment Handbook. Jessica K is also project lead on organising as series of webinars on Adapting to a Neurodiversity Affirmative Paradigm in Child & Adolescent Clinical Services.
In her work as a sensory processing project officer Jessica K has created the branding, logo and media content for TCDSense. Jessica K is currently analysing research on student’s experience of college sensory environments and conducting sensory audits of different spaces on trinity campus. Jessica K also is coordinating the design of resources for TCD students to increase sensory awareness and navigation.
From 2011 to 2014, Jessica K was a founding director of Galway Autism Partnership (GAP) while she was in Galway studying TV and Film Production. In her role as a director of GAP, she conceptualised, applied for funding, developed, piloted, facilitated and advised on the ‘special interest model’ youth cafe; a youth cafe designed for autistic individuals aged 11- 17 years in mainstream education who are at risk of bullying or social isolation. Jessica K created the special interest youth cafe to facilitate autistic youths in forming connections and friendships by helping them link their passions through various multimedia mediums (for example, creating a stop motion animation explored through graffiti about Thomas the tank engine and Moshi monsters). Her own experience of being a young autistic individual inspired Jessica K to create a space where autistic youths could express themselves, feel empowered to be themselves, form friendships and belong. Jessica also designed and led the team that built the GAP sensory room.
My future plans are evolving. I eventually want to do clinical psychology and hopefully someday specialise in autism. In the short term, I plan to finish the qualitative analysis of my research into Autistic formats of thought. I plan to publish that research as three papers (Factor analysis of the SCSQ, Formats of autistic thought, the regression analysis/model of the links between sensory sensitivity, intolerance of uncertainty, cognitive style and anxiety). I also plan to present my research at different events. I also hope to do more public speaking on autism and continue my work as an autism consultant, especially in bringing the neurodiversity paradigm to clinical practice and social/residential settings that work with Autistic individuals who have co-occurring intellectual disabilities. I will endevaour to continue to educate on autism and see how it is a different yet completely valid senosry perception with context specific strenghts and challenges the same as any neurotype. She will still engage in work and as the TCD tag line says: get everyone to “Think Sensory” and see how sensory elements and how we each consturuct reality in different ways by how we perceve the world and the different ways we balance both information from our environment and what we expect to see and beliefs we hold. And also get to a stage where we can see that autism just like neurotypical has as much variation within the population, with as many vast and varied outcomes and presentations, that we cold never pin down in to a paragraph of criteria that would type all autistic people, but that we also change and grow and learn and adapt and that sometimes we need more support than other and how context has a major role in being a barrier, and continue to show how autism is not a disease or an impairment but it can be disabling being autistic in this world because of how society has been designed for only one neurotype (neurotypical) but how lockdown has given us insight to show us how in the lockdown environment being neurotypical is also disabling. Some day I would like to to a ted talk on autism as a sensory perceptual difference. I am looking forward to more engagement with the public on increasing understanding of autism, neurodiversity and sensory perception. I am looking forward to publishing the neurodiversity handbook.
I am also looking forward to being able to return to going swimming.
Prototype outdoor sensory space, which is a practical application from my research and ties into my work with TCDSense, and into my work as assistant psychologist and the neuroaffirmative approach as it all connected to the HIPPEA model of autism that sees autism at its core as a sensory perceptual difference.