Cowen: My last question is on what I call the Michelle Dawson production function. You know a great deal about autism. How is it that, given your history – you were not trained as an autism researcher in the formal sense – but how is it that you learn about autism?
Dawson: I had to. It came out of my situation being terrible, so I was quite motivated. I had been told over and over again that I was too stupid – no other way to put it – to understand autism research. I tried other avenues. I was in a very difficult situation legally... everything, really.
Because I had to address these legal issues and questions, I did actually look at the autism literature, and suddenly I had information I could really work with. Suddenly there it was, this information that I was supposed to be too stupid to work with... But what I’ve found is that the information I really needed was in these papers, so I read a lot, a lot of papers.
I read a lot of papers. I have not been taught how or what or where to read or anything. I read a lot of papers. I read associated information, like a trial registration, grant information, to get the information as complex and as useful as possible.
For context, Dawson was diagnosed with autism as an adult, and worked as a mail carrier before transitioning to research. She received an honorary doctorate from the University of Montreal in 2013.