Psychology grad aims to make a difference in autism research

Social Sciences

- Anne MacLaurin

Dwyer. Photo: UVic.

Patrick Dwyer is confident, articulate and sharply focused on his future. Born and raised in Victoria, he loves the outdoors, hiking and reading. He’s particularly grateful for the support of his family especially while he completed a BA in psychology with a minor in political science.

“I’m excited to continue my research in developmental psychology,” says Dwyer. “I want to make a difference in the lives of people living with autism.”

Developmental psychology, specifically autism research, is personal for Dwyer.

“I was 18 years old when I went public with my diagnosis,” he says. “I didn’t want to hide it any longer; as someone with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) I wanted to define myself in a positive way.”

Growing up, Dwyer found middle school especially challenging; the loud ambient noise of a classroom made it impossible for him to focus on learning. Once he started a home-schooling program, Dwyer excelled in his subjects and soon set his sights on applying to UVic.

“UVic has an excellent psychology program,” says Dwyer, “and the people are friendly, approachable and the campus is beautiful with a great atmosphere.”

In his second year, Dwyer became involved in psychology research as an assistant to psychologist Stephen Lindsay. He was later awarded a Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Award to develop a research project involving adults with autism under Lindsay’s supervision.

During his undergraduate degree, Dwyer had an opportunity to work with another psychologist, James Tanaka, and UVic’s Centre for Autism Research, Technology and Education (CARTE) where he helped and supported children on the spectrum in social and teamwork activities during summer research camps.

Dwyer was also actively involved with the peer support group and official UVic club, Authors with Autism. He organized the 2015, 2016 and this year’s 2017 Autism’s Own Conference, a unique event celebrating a non-academic UVic journal written and edited by people on the autism spectrum. He was also an active member of the UVic Society for Students with Disabilities, an advocacy group for students with disabilities on campus.

“I’ve been immersed in the autism community my whole life,” says Dwyer. “My younger brother is on the spectrum and so are a large number of my friends.”

Dwyer talks about the extremely poor adult outcomes for people with ASD, especially for young people transitioning from high school to employment. A high proportion of people with ASD work at low-paying jobs and remain in poverty most of their lives.

With an exceptional graduating GPA, Dwyer has been accepted into the prestigious PhD program in developmental psychology at the University of California, Davis beginning in September.

“I hope to close the gap between autism researchers and advocates,” says Dwyer. “Few people on the spectrum are also involved in research.”


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Keywords: convocation, graduation, student life, psychology, autism, research

People: Patrick Dwyer

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