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Spectrum: Autism Research News

A decade of Spectrum

by  /  21 December 2018
A drawing shows the word 'autism' formed of loose letters under a magnifying glass.

Dear Readers,

Can you believe it? It’s been 10 years since Spectrum — well, one version of Spectrum — launched.

In that time, we’ve changed branding colors from red to purple to yellow to a true spectrum, grown from a team of 1 to 11, written and edited thousands of articles about autism research, and attracted a readership of millions. We’ve produced news, opinion, conference reports, long-form features, webinars, videos, podcasts, data visualizations, interactives, explainers and more.

Fittingly, in this anniversary year, we made forays into new territory.

In March, we teamed up with Caveat, a performance space in New York City, to host our first live event. The event featured three autistic women talking about various aspects of life on the spectrum: love and relationships, employment and race.

In May, timed to the annual meeting of the International Society for Autism Research, we produced our first book — a retro move for a digital-only site, perhaps, but an opportunity to curate some of our most enduring long-form articles into a tangible format. We are working on our second book, a collection of articles that reflect the evolution of autism research over Spectrum’s tenure.

Also in May, we published a special report to chart the impact of the DSM-5, the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, five years after its launch. As part of the report, we reflected on the changing definition of the term ‘autism.’

You may already be familiar with our podcast, “Spectrum Stories.” In August, we also began piping our stories out to devices such as Alexa and Google Home via a service called Spoken Layer.

In October, we published the result of an editorial collaboration with the prestigious magazine Science — a detailed description of a small town in Colombia and the secrets it might reveal about fragile X syndrome, a condition closely related to autism. We hope this is only the first of our collaborations with Science.

November saw the launch of two big projects we had been working on for months, and thinking about for years. One of these is Autism 101, a collection of explainers on numerous aspects of autism, including its prevalence, diagnosis and sex ratio. This is a resource we created to meet a popular demand, and we expect to add to it over the coming months.

Also in November, we debuted a resource that we are immensely proud of: a map of autism prevalence worldwide. Built with careful guidance from an all-star team of advisers, the map relies on a database of downloadable data; we invite you to play with the data and create your own analyses of the trends in autism prevalence.

We received several accolades for our work in 2018. Freelancer Brendan Borrell won a first-place award from the Association of Health Care Journalists for his painstaking investigation into Son-Rise, a questionable treatment for autism; and Lauren Gravitz won a first-place award from the National Institute for Health Care Management for her exploration of the problem of medication interactions among autistic people. Spectrum was also recognized by both the Webbys and the W3 awards for providing excellent scientific information and for the quality of writing on the site.

We have big plans for new projects in 2019. As we enter our next decade, we are, as always, deeply grateful to you, our readers.

From all of us at Spectrum, we wish you the very best this holiday season and a wonderful new year.


–Apoorva Mandavilli

Editor-in-Chief, Spectrum




TAGS:   autism, community