Tribe-UVa Partnership

Dr. Jaswal’s research and teaching have been shaped by an exciting partnership with a group of college-aged, nonspeaking autistic adults who refer to themselves as “The Tribe.” We strive to expand research and educational opportunities for individuals on the autism spectrum by seeking their input. In doing so, we hope to build a broad and inclusive base of support to better serve autistic people and their families.



In August 2016, 20 UVa students and 10 members of the Tribe embarked on a year-long collaboration to explore the tensions between the science and lived experience of autism. Taught by Dr. Jaswal, students engaged with a variety of stakeholders in an effort to bring the science and lived experience closer together. A second and third cohort of UVa students participated in 2017-8 and 2018-9.

Beyond typical coursework in autism seminars at other universities, the partnership was bolstered by virtual and in-person exchanges over the course of the year. Students discussed readings, shared meals, and enjoyed each others’ company. Along the way, they were joined by local politicians, practitioners, advocates, researchers, artists, musicians, family, and other members of the community. The gallery and news stories below offer a brief glimpse into what transpired in this unique collaboration.

— In the Spotlight —

Special thanks to Growing Kids Therapy Center, the UVa Civic & Community Engagement Initiative, and the UVa Disabilities Studies Initiative for making this partnership possible.