Neurodiversity and Autism Spectrum Disorder: Grounding for Social Work Education and Praxis
This banded dissertation includes three products that use neurodiversity as a theoretical framework to explore how autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has been treated in the social work academy. Neurodiversity is a social movement amongst some individuals with ASD who see the diagnosis as a difference, primarily manifested neurologically, in how their brains, senses, emotions and beings are different than typical people, which itself represents a type of diversity. The first product is a paper that explores the emergence of the neurodiversity movement in the early 2000’s and the cogent factors that inspired this movement. The connection to social work’s strength-based practice (Saleeby, 1992) critical disability theory, and ideas of empowerment and self-determination are part and parcel of the neurodiversity movement, yet the social work academy has been largely unaware of this trend. The second product, a cross-sectional survey study examined the disconnect between social work education and ultimately, the preparation and desire of social workers to practice with people with ASD. Regression analysis revealed that contact with persons with ASD was the greatest predictor in the model. Overall, the model significantly predicted the desire to work with people with autism F (6, 272) = 36.3, p < .0001, R2 = 0.51, Adjusted R2 = 0.50. The third product is a peer-reviewed poster presentation entitled: Neurodiversity: The New Cultural Competency in Social Work Education presented at the Council on Social Work Education’s 64th Annual Program Meeting (APM) on November 11, 2018. The poster included an overview of the development of neurodiversity and its application into social work education. Specifically, the poster looked at ways social work practitioners could more easily understand and communicate with those on the autism spectrum.