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Stereotypical and peculiar - on understandings of autism and positioning of autistic subjects (poster presentation)

Ditte Rose Andersen, PPR Frederiksberg, Denmark


In my poster I would like to present central theoretical ideas and results from my master's thesis on autism. In particular, I want to present my work on disability models and cognitive impairment models. My main aim is to point out the malignant positions that some models make available to autistic subjects and to point to alternative conceptualizations taking situatedness and subjectivity into account. In my master's thesis, I started out pointing to a paradox present in current scientific and interventional approaches to autism. While seemingly influencing the lives of autistic persons in aspects pertaining to their subjectivity, current understandings do not take the matter of subjectivity into account themselves. In the light of this paradox, I asked: "What effects do scientific and interventional understandings of autism have on the conditions for living one's life as an autistic subject - especially in terms of positioning in psychological professional contexts?" I explored this question through an empirical analysis of the "National Autisme Plan," which is a recent set of interventional recommendations for Danish autism practice, and through an analysis of scientific literature on three prominent models for cognitive impairment in autism, namely theory of mind, executive functions and central coherence. In my analyses of these recommendations and models I seeked to point out the subject positions offered to and dealt with by autistic subjects. I understood such subjects to be both subjectified through historically contingent practice/discourse and to be endowed with capacities for experience and action qua subjects. "National Autisme Plan" views autism as a disability and I argued that impairment is a concept critical to the disability models employed in the recommendations. This discussion lead to an analysis of the conditions for and effects of cognitive impairment models for autism. I argued that current ideas of "normal" work together with scientific discourse to potentially render autistic subjects deficient in personal/social understanding, intentionality and meaningfully sensing, thinking and acting. In returning to the actual recommendations of National Autisme Plan, I argued that autistic subjects are offered negative or even malignant positions within an ethos of viewing atypical" as something to be handled by objective knowledge and general techniques. This, I argued, leads to the exclusion of subjective, intersubjective and intentional aspects in autism research and intervention. In order to settle this matter, I proposed a three-fold question to be asked in such practices, namely "where, why and for whom?"

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