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Soc Sci Med. 2010 Jan;70(2):305-12. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.10.017. Epub 2009 Nov 2.

'It cuts both ways': a relational approach to access and accommodation for autism.

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Queen's University, Geography, Mackintosh-Corry Hall, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.


Drawing on a qualitative study of 45 autobiographical texts by authors with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), this paper examines and attempts to aggregate recommendations for challenging barriers to socio-spatial inclusion. The autobiographies were selected by means of purposive sampling and subjected to a sequential process of detailed annotation, manual coding for emergent themes, and ongoing critical discourse analysis until data-saturation occurred. Resulting findings reveal that the extraordinarily heightened senses typically associated with ASDs mean that those on the spectrum often struggle to process environmental stimuli in a way that makes sense. Negotiating the sensory geographies of daily life requires considerable work, and while the access afforded by such cognitive and emotional labour may be rewarding, ASD authors reveal that their efforts are rarely understood - or assisted - by non-autistic others. Many proposed accommodations could, however, be made with relative ease, and ASD texts provide good reasons and recommendations for toning down 'toxic' stimuli - such as fluorescent lights - and for redesigning or reorganizing the shared sensory 'furniture' of social space. The paper thus suggests that by attending closely to voices from the spectrum, the non-autistic majority might ensure responsibilities to open access are taken seriously, and do indeed 'cut both ways'.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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