‘You don’t look autistic’: A qualitative exploration of women’s experiences of being the autistic other

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Abstract

There is currently a paucity of literature exploring the experiences of women on the autism spectrum. It is imperative research is conducted to capture the experiences of women on the autism spectrum and ensure appropriate support is provided to this cohort. Drawing upon a social constructionist framework, this qualitative research study sought to understand how psychological and socio-cultural constructions of autism spectrum condition and gender influence the well-being of women on the autism spectrum. Eight participants engaged in a semi-structured interview, with thematic analysis conducted to demonstrate the impact of gender roles and social expectations on the women’s identity and autism spectrum condition expression. The research highlighted the changing understandings of autism spectrum condition across a woman’s lifespan and the process and impact of resisting hegemonic autism spectrum condition categorisation. The findings demonstrate that social constructions of gender and stereotypical understandings of autism spectrum condition, which prioritise a deficit, medical model, have significant consequences for women’s well-being and subjectivity. The women experienced challenging formative years, but with diagnosis and the evolution and acceptance of their identities, they were able to resist negative narratives of autism spectrum condition, embrace their strengths and develop adaptive coping strategies. It is hoped this article generates insights for societal and clinical recognition to better support women on the autism spectrum.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1553-1564
Number of pages12
JournalAutism: the international journal of research and practice
Volume25
Issue number6
Early online date15 Mar 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 01 Aug 2021

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