Skip to main content

Identifying Opportunities for Autistic Individuals to Work in Geospatial Technologies

Primary Investigators:
Janey Camp
Brief Description of Project:
The primary goal for this literature review would be to develop a baseline understanding of the opportunities and potential challenges for autistic and neurodiverse individuals that possess sophisticated spatial reasoning capabilities ,  ,   and attention to detail to become more active participants in geospatial technology careers.  Geospatial technologies [geospatial information systems (GIS), global positioning systems (GPS), etc.] are becoming commonplace and also more data intensive as GPS-enabled smart phones allow for sharing of location and navigation more readily.  As Kathryn Brewer stated in ArcNews magazine, “The geospatial field can be very attractive to neurodivergent job seekers who process visual information much more easily than aural information, want concrete work with tangible outcomes, and prefer limited social interaction with other professionals who are known for looking at people and data in unique and powerful ways.”   There is much literature on the enhanced spatial sensitivity of autistic individuals and also literature on spatial reasoning and development of spatial thinking skills.  However, limited literature exists on linking the two. This project would focus on making a literature-based linkage between the two with a focus on careers in geospatial technologies, skill sets needed, gaps in the workforce, and how existing efforts in development of spatial thinking skills may play a role in preparing autistic individuals to utilize their spatial abilities at various levels of analysis.

Desired Qualifications: 
Strong written and verbal English skills
Ability to work in teams and also work independently
Interest or experience in using Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
Strong organizational skills

Nature of Supervision:
We will have weekly (or more frequent as needed) project meetings with PI and monthly calls with broader project team. The student will work with a GIS consultant retained to work on the project and also be mentored one or more graduate students in the VECTOR research group.
A Brief Research Plan (period is for 10 weeks):
The primary tasks associated with this project would be to perform a literature review of the following topical areas and synthesize the findings into a cohesive manuscript for publication. 
• Spatial ability and autism/neurodiversity – what are the key strengths that may lend themselves to opportunities in geospatial careers
• Geospatial career pathways - necessary skill sets, and the lay of the land for emerging geospatial jobs and workforce gaps
• Spatial thinking training and education – how is spatial thinking taught and enhanced in classrooms, etc. and how might those activities play a role in training autistic individuals to apply their abilities to geospatial technology workplace activities

Number of Open Slots: 1
Contact Information:
Name: Janey Camp
Department: Civil and Environmental Engineering