Representations of autism: Implications for community healthcare practice

Brownlow, Charlotte and O'Dell, Lindsay (2009). Representations of autism: Implications for community healthcare practice. Community Practitioner, 82(7) pp. 18–21.



The work presented in this paper is part of a larger project in which online asynchronous discussion groups were employed to examine how a range of contributors - including people with autism, parents of people with autism, and professionals working within the field of autism - view and understand autism. In this paper, we focus on the voices of people with autism. The terminology used in the paper takes its lead from the writings of people with autism, who frequently use the term 'AS' to refer to autistic spectrum and Asperger syndrome and 'NT', which refers to neurologically typical people without autism. We examine a key theme identified in the online discussion groups - the representation of individuals with autism as occupying a separate world of autism. In doing so, we question an apparent goal of therapeutic interventions - to bring people with autism out of their 'separate world' and integrate them into a more typically 'social world'. We present an alternative understanding of autism that argues for valuing diversity and viewing autism as a difference rather than a deficit. We will discuss some of the implications that this may have for working with people with autism in health and social care practice.

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