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Able autistic adults' constructions of social disability

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posted on 2014-12-15, 10:46 authored by Craig. MacDonald
Since Wing's (1981) seminal paper, Asperger's syndrome: a clinical account, research into more able or 'high-functioning' individuals with autistic spectrum disorders has tended to focus on children. For adults, limited research has suggested a general trend toward recovery from earlier autistic 'symptoms'. However, continued social isolation and poor levels of social integration have been reported to remain common.;This study explored how six able autistic adults (five male; age range 22 to 37 years) understood their experiences of social disability. All participants had prior psychiatric diagnoses of an autistic spectrum disorder (one 'Infantile Autism', five 'Asperger's syndrome'). Candidates requiring residential care and those with a dual-diagnosis of learning disability (mental handicap / mental retardation) or psychiatric illness were excluded. A directed sampling procedure was used and qualitative data were gathered in individual interviews. Grounded theory methodology was used for data selection and transcript analysis.;A core construct termed 'Social fit' was identified in the analysis. This represented participants' constructions of disability as a relationship between self and 'others'. Within this construct, an explanatory process model was developed comprising three main categories of experience. These represented, respectively, participants' gradual awareness of personal difference, their revaluation of personal identity and their subsequent understanding of social inclusion.;The analysis was discussed in relation to literature on autism and disability theory.


Date of award


Author affiliation

Clinical Psychology

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • DClinPsy



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