The citizen-worker: ambivalent meanings of ‘real jobs’, ‘full citizenship’ and adulthood in the case of autistic people

Bertilsdotter Rosqvist, Hanna; O'Dell, Lindsay and Brownlow, Charlotte (2014). The citizen-worker: ambivalent meanings of ‘real jobs’, ‘full citizenship’ and adulthood in the case of autistic people. Australian Community Psychologist, 26(1) pp. 18–27.

Abstract

In this paper we discuss the experiences of autistic people in engaging with the workplace, and hence becoming an active citizen within dominant constructions of adulthood. We focus on transition into work as a key way in which children become adults in many societies. Such a transition to adulthood is seen to be less straightforward for children with ‘disabilities’, including those with a diagnosis of autism (or self defining as autistic). In this paper we draw on data from our previous and ongoing research examining neurodiverse spaces for children and adults with autism, and the importance of such spaces. Issues for neurodiverse spaces are also key in the workplace and the implications for refocusing an examination on transitions into work by autistic people through a lens of neurodiversity are far reaching in terms of how autistic people fashion their own positive citizenship identities; how service providers negotiate opportunities for some; and how workplaces shift in terms of accommodating difference. We argue that there is a need for inclusive and diverse workspaces, where the strengths of some adults with autism can be part of a shared neurodiverse and non-autistic (neurotypical) space. We therefore argue that by attending to the workplace from a neurodiverse perspective community psychologists can work to support a diverse range of young people into working activities, if they choose to participate.

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