Research into Autism and Missing

Survey for autistic people with lived experience of going missing or running away

We are looking for autistic people with lived experience of going missing to complete our survey. If you think this describes you and you would like to take the survey, please click here. For more information about the research project, please read on.

Autism and missing – why are we doing this research?

Missing as an issue encompasses a broad spectrum of experiences and intersects with a variety of other social issues, including mental health, criminal and sexual exploitation, and homelessness amongst others. We know that many of the people who go missing, both as children and adults, are autistic. The reasons for them going missing may be linked to their autism but also a range of other medical, psychological, and sociological factors. Autism is therefore a very important piece in the jigsaw of missing, and as a charity we feel it is important for us to better understand the experience of autistic people who go missing.

What do we want to achieve with this research?

The purpose of this research is to explore the relationship between missing and autism so that we can better advocate on behalf of autistic people who go missing, and to ensure our own services are best meeting their needs.

We will publish a report with a view to improving people’s understanding of the links between autism and missing, and the unique challenges faced by autistic people before, during, and after a missing episode. The report will also offer guidance to families and carers of autistic people at risk of going missing, as well as to professionals such as social workers, police, and other key agencies regarding prevention, investigation, and support on return.

Through this research, we hope to influence the policies and practices of key agencies and groups involved when someone goes missing to ensure that the needs of autistic people who go missing (or who might go missing) are being met, that they can access the support they need, and that their safety is prioritised.

How are we carrying out this research?

We are using a range of methods in this research – surveys, interviews and focus groups – to collect the views and experiences of families and carers, professionals who work with autistic people, and most importantly: autistic people themselves, ideally those with lived experience of being missing.

How can you help us?

If you are autistic (whether formally diagnosed or self-diagnosed), are aged 18 or over, and have lived experience of going missing or running away*, we would like to hear from you via our lived experience survey to better understand your views and experiences.

The survey could take anything from 5 minutes to around 25 minutes to complete, depending on how much detail you wish to share. Responses to the survey are anonymous, strictly confidential, and will be stored securely and only accessible by the research team at Missing People. You will not be identifiable in any internal or external report based on responses to this survey.

What will the survey ask you about?

This survey will ask you a range of questions exploring:

  • Why you went missing / away
  • What happened while you were away
  • How you returned
  • What help you wanted (if any) and whether you were able to access this help

Triggering questions

Please note that some questions in this survey ask about topics that could potentially be triggering for some, such as mental health, self-harm, suicide, and abuse. A trigger warning will appear before these questions are shown, and you will be given the option to skip any questions that you might find triggering or that may cause you any distress. You can also close the survey window altogether if you do not wish to continue with the survey.

Other ways to take part in the research

If you would like to take part in this research but do not want to complete the survey, there are a number of different ways you can be involved, including:

  • Taking part in a verbal interview using Microsoft Teams or Zoom (cameras can be switched off if you’d be more comfortable with audio only)
  • Taking part in a verbal interview via telephone or mobile phone call
  • Taking part in an interview using online chat software
  • Answering questions via e-mail
  • Sharing your experience through drawing

If you are interested in taking part in any of these ways, please let us know by completing this very short form.

You can also contact the research team by e-mailing policyandresearch@missingpeople.org.uk.

About Missing People

Missing People is a lifeline when someone disappears. We provide support for anyone affected by missing, including through our free, confidential helpline. To see the full range of services we deliver, click here.

If you are missing, thinking of going missing, or are in any way affected by someone going missing and need to talk to someone, please contact Missing People via phone or text on 116 000, or e-mail 116000@missingpeople.org.uk.

*By ‘missing’ or ‘run away’, we mean leaving where you are living or staying, or any other place you are expected to be, without telling or being able to tell other people where you have gone and your whereabouts are unknown to others for any length of time. That could be anything from a few hours to several days, months or years. This typically involves someone being reported to the police as a missing person, but it can also include situations where the person was not reported missing. This might otherwise be described as ‘going away’, ‘disappearing,’ ‘going absent,’ ‘taking time out’ or something else, and you may not have thought of yourself as “missing”.

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