The work presented in this paper is part of a larger project in which online asynchronous discussion groups were employed to examine how a range of contributors – including people with autism, parents of people with autism, and professionals working within the field of autism – view and understand autism. In this paper, we focus on the voices of people with autism. The terminology used in the paper takes its lead from the writings of people with autism, who frequently use the term 'AS' to refer to autistic spectrum and Asperger syndrome and 'NT', which refers to neurologically typical people without autism. We examine a key theme identified in the online discussion groups – the representation of individuals with autism as occupying a separate world of autism. In doing so, we question an apparent goal of therapeutic interventions – to bring people with autism out of their 'separate world' and integrate them into a more typically 'social world'. We present an alternative understanding of autism that argues for valuing diversity and viewing autism as a difference rather than a deficit. We will discuss some of the implications that this may have for working with people with autism in health and social care practice.
Community Practitioner - the journal of the Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors' Association (Unite/CPHVA) - has a readership that includes over 20,700 healthcare professionals who work in the community, caring for over 5,000,000 clients, patients and families across the UK. These comprise health visitors, school nurses, district nurses, practice nurses, community paediatric nurses, community nursery nurses and other community-based practitioners.