Dr Monique Botha
I am a Community Psychologist with a focus on autism, social psychology, equality, and mental health. I am passionate about producing research that can help autistic people of all ages to live equitably in communities. My approach to research, training and service design is "Nothing About Us Without Us". Everything should be done from a participatory, or group led approach, where the expertise of the community is appreciated and embraced. Research and services should aim to be inter-disciplinary, rigorous, and accessible.
I am currently a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University of Stirling for a project entitled "Fragile Knowledge: Dehumanisation and Interpretation Bias in Autism Research". In this project I will use computational textual analysis to examine the field of autism research from a rhetorical, and methodological standpoint. In particular, I am interested in how dehumanization, objectification, and stigma pervade the language and methods of the field, creating ideas of autistic people as sub-human. This adds to my increasing body of work on the theoretical and ethical implications of how autistic people are shaped in knowledge production and the influence of societal and research-based ableism.
Before this, I was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Stirling, having secured a one-year long fellowship from the Economic and Social Research Council which focused on publishing studies from my thesis, securing funding to continue my research, and build my network. I completed my PhD in Psychology from the University of Surrey (2016-2020). My PhD thesis investigated the role of autistic community connectedness in buffering against the effects of minority stress (such as stigma and discrimination) on mental health in the autistic community. Similarly, I completed my MSc in Psychology at the University of Surrey too (2015-2016).
Prior to entering Psychology, I studied for a BA in Social Care Practice at Athlone Institute of Technology (2011-2015). During this time, I worked as a Social Care Practitioner within a care-providing service, where I worked with autistic children and their families for four years. My background in Social Care Practice has allowed for an interdisciplinary psychology with a focus on impact and application.
A snapshot of my latest papers
Community Psychology, Social Justice, and Autism Research
December 12th 2021
This theroetical paper explores the power of both community psychology and critical realism for underpining the psychology of autism. It proposes that social justice should be a key goal of any research affecting autistic people, and that critical realism as a philosophy of science can support the multi-method, multi-disciplinary work required to fully appreciate the complexity of autistic lives. This open access paper is available here!
Academic, Activist, or Advocate? Angry, Entangled, and Emerging: A Critical Reflection on Autism Knowledge Production
September 28th 2021
This autoethnography based on almost a decade of academia explore what it means to be autistic and creating autism science. It tackles issues such as ableism, marginalisation, and why concepts such as "objectivity" are used to disingenously sideline autistic expertise. Open access paper here!
Identity-First Versus Person-First Language Use in Autism Research
January 20th 2021
Our paper discusses the implications for person first, versus identity first language in research. Ultimatey language use should be driven by the community being "named" - autistic people should lead this conversation. Read about this paper here!
Stigma and Identity
October 6th 2020
Our latest paper is a qualitative investigation of stigma and identity in the autistic community. We used a range of methods to interview participants on how they understood their own autism, and their experiences of identity and stigma, in light of being autistic. Read about this paper here!
Minority Stress and Mental Health
October 12th 2018
Our paper investigated whether the minority stress model might provide a useful way of understanding poor mental health in the autistic community. Read about this paper here!
The Construction of Autistic People by Researchers
In this webinar Dr Botha discussed the findings from a mixed method study conducted with Dr Eilidh Cage investigating how researchers talk about autism and autistic people. The mixed-method study invited autism researchers to talk about autism, autistic people, what they believed “caused” autism, and what they believed should be the focus of autism research. The findings were discussed with a particular focus on the many implications for how research-based discourse can be responsible for generating and sustaining the stigmatisation of autistic people, and how cues for stigma and dehumanisation can be embedded in the language we use to describe autistic people.
Below are a range of public engagement talks ranging from the ethics of autism research, to the role of minority stress in autistic mental health and wellbeing!
Aucademy podcast: Minority stress, mental health, autistic community connectedness and autism.
In this session Dr Monique Botha discusses minority stress, autism, mental health, autistic community connectedness, and stigma with Chloe and David. Monique will be doing a 30 minute presentation followed by 30 minute discussion.
Autism: A quick trip to my home planet.
In their heart-warming talk, Monique will speak about the alienation and isolation experienced by individuals with autism and the stereotypes that plague the diagnosis. Having autism they want to raise awareness of the challenges faced by individuals who are autistic. Monique challenges society’s perception of autism and urges a change in the way society interacts with autism as a whole.
In the media
My work has been featured in news from around the world - here you can find a small selection of these articles.
Meet the autistic scientists redefining autism research
10th June 2020
Growing ranks of researchers on the spectrum are overcoming barriers — from neurotypical bias to sensory sensitivities — to shape autism science. By Rachel Nuwer.
Social Stigma Worsens Mental Health in Autistic People
2nd November 2018
Research may dispel past theories that the condition contributes to mental health issues.
Autistic Researchers - podcast with Sirius XM 143 Top of Mind
January 26, 2021
Autistic people experience a higher rate of anxiety and depression compared to non-autistic people. In this radio interview, I discuss how minority stress, social stigma, and discrimination add to the stress burden autistic people experience. I also talk about being an autistic autism researcher and how that shapes my work.
Below I have listed some of the projects I am currently working on with collaborators - for some we are looking for co-researchers and collaborators, for others we are looking for participants! For more information on each of the projects there are links. Should you be interested in collaborating with me on a project that isn't listed drop me and email and we can discuss potential projects. I won't always always have capacity for new projects but we will never know unless you try!
Striving to Transform Autism Research Together Scotland
Call for co-researchers!
Striving to Transform Autism Research - Scotland, or STARTS for short, is a network for autistic people and autism researchers in Scotland. STARTS is currently funded for two years by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and is led by Dr Eilidh Cage (University of Stirling), with support from collaborators Dr Monique Botha (University of Stirling) and Dr Catherine Crompton (University of Edinburgh). This project has been kindly funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh
Understanding autistic adult's experiences of intimate violence and abuse
Call for participants!
The aim of our project is to examine how autistic people recognise and understand this violence and abuse, the barriers they might face seeking and accessing support, and things that help in accessing support and recovery. Our research would provide a much needed evidence base to improve access to support for autistic people who have experienced these forms of violence, and ensure that support offered is both appropriate, and of adequate quality. This project is kindly funded by the Violence, Abuse and Mental Health Network
Navigating an autism diagnosis in adulthood
Call for collaborators!
We are looking for eight people (aged over 18) in the UK who are currently trying to get an autism diagnosis as an adult. We think that the diagnosis experience could be improved, but we want to talk to you about your experiences and what changes you think are needed. We also want to talk about how you think you could be better supported to explore your autistic identity.