Developing the multidimensional visual scale assessing affect, anxiety, pride, and energy through a research partnership with autistic scholars

Ariana Riccio, Jin Delos Santos, Steven K. Kapp, Allison Jordan, Danielle Denigris, Kristen Gillespie-Lynch

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Autism research studies have traditionally failed to represent the full diversity of the autism spectrum due to the lack of measures available for use with participants who prefer to express themselves visually. A multidimensional measure of emotions, which can include both picture- and text-based prompts, may improve accessibility of emotion rating measures and broaden participation in research and educational evaluations to include those who communicate in diverse ways. Picture-based measures designed to assess participants' emotions may be useful for research concerning autistic identity and service evaluation, two areas where representation of diverse perspectives is needed. Our participatory group of autistic and nonautistic researchers developed a Multidimensional Visual Scale Assessing Affect, Anxiety, Pride, and Energy (AAPE) by adapting and expanding upon an existing emotion rating scale. When testing the AAPE with autistic college students (n = 72), their open-ended responses indicated that the AAPE's dimensions of affect (97.2% correct), anxiety (79.2% correct), and energy (84.7% correct) were well comprehended without text-based labels with potential for improvement in how pride (52.8% correct) was represented. When provided with the labels that each dimension was intended to represent, participants generally agreed that each emotional dimension was well represented. When tested in an informal educational summer camp with autistic children and adolescents (n = 50), the AAPE was well received and revealed insights about the students' emotional responses to different instructional strategies that can guide curricular improvements. The AAPE has utility as a tool to help diverse autistic individuals self-advocate and improve research and services.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAutism in Adulthood
Early online date28 Feb 2020
Publication statusEarly online - 28 Feb 2020


  • emotion
  • measurement
  • visual scale
  • participatory research
  • autistic identity


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