Supporting those with diabetes and autism

Tuesday 11 August 2020

People with intellectual and developmental disabilities frequently find it challenging to access the healthcare they need. It is vital that we work to lessen the gap felt by individuals who experience this disparity.

For those who have an intellectual disability or are Autistic and also have diabetes, this gap is all too real. How we look after and care for each other, especially those who may need just a little more help, is a reminder of human kindness, especially in a pandemic world.

Dr Katie Brooker, Mater and University of Queensland researcher, is carving a pathway to discover how to better help those who fall between the gaps in our health system.

“(For) a lot of the health campaigns currently in market, the style of communication isn’t accessible to the people in mind. We need to look more broadly at how we communicate the help that is available, from doctors, healthcare professionals and family. Many years ago, we developed a website, the first of its kind, to offer help at a level that was easier to understand”, Dr Brooker said.

The next step in this work is to update the information available for relevancy in today’s healthcare landscape.

“Due to COVID-19’s social distancing requirements, we’ve had to hit pause on a few projects in this research area. Yet thanks to COVID-19, more research opportunities into telehealth have emerged, which can be a bonus for individuals who also find it difficult to leave their homes.

“Our main aim is to create a resource to help people to better understand how to manage their own diabetes—what food choices benefit them, how exercise can help and what to do in case of an emergency.”

“The best outcome is knowing that people can use the updated site and find it useful. This work will continue—Autistic children become Autistic adults. Ongoing research is especially important, as those with autism and diabetes are constantly evolving and growing up.”

During the pandemic, a new research project has begun, with the goal to empower those who are Autistic and living with diabetes to show others how they manage their type 1 or type 2 diabetes, in their own way.

Recruitment is under way for Katie Brooker. Contact the team on and find out more about how to participate.

This research project is made possible from Mater Foundation and Diabetes Australia.