OCTRI KL2 scholar puts Autistic Burnout on research map

Dora Raymaker (left) and Christina Nicolaidis hold copies of the new journal Autism in Adulthood.

A team of researchers led by Dr. Dora M. Raymaker, one of few openly autistic researchers, used a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach to conduct an inaugural study on autistic burnout. Findings draw attention to the syndrome, long recognized by autistic people but not formally investigated, and will inform future research, prevention strategies, and interventions.

Autistic burnout can contribute to executive functioning declines, depression, self-harm, and suicidal ideation. Despite these impacts, and the fact that suicide is the leading cause of death among autistic adults without intellectual disability, research on autistic burnout was nonexistent.

OCTRI KL2 scholar and BUILD EXITO Round 1 Pilot Project recipient, Dora M. Raymaker, PhD, used a CBPR approach to conduct the first-ever study on the topic. This resulted in a landmark paper characterizing autistic burnout and defining it as a phenomenon distinct from occupational burnout or clinical depression. In addition to laying the groundwork for finding ways to relieve or prevent burnout, this paper gave a voice to the autistic community regarding their own health needs and highlights the importance of using CBPR methods in understanding and defining the needs of populations who are typically underrepresented in research.

Data from this study contributed to an R34 application, authored by mentor and collaborator Christina Nicolaidis, MD, MPH, an OHSU Internal Medicine physician and School of Social Work professor at Portland State University, that will fund an interventional study working with employers to develop workplace practices to relieve or prevent autistic burnout.

Drs. Raymaker and Nicolaidis were featured in Science for their CBPR study.

Publishing CTSA Program Hub’s Name
CTSA Program In Action Goals
Goal 1: Train and Cultivate the Translational Science Workforce
Goal 2: Engage Patients and Communities in Every Phase of the Translational Process
Goal 3: Promote the Integration of Special and Underserved Populations in Translational Research Across the Human Lifespan