The Impact of Socio-Cultural Values on Autistic Women: an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis
The experiences of autistic females, particularly those of adult women are not well understood. The way that autism has been conceptualised traditionally has contributed to knowledge being largely extrapolated from experiences of autistic men and children. Lived experience research provides a valuable resource for understanding hard to reach voices, such as those of autistic women without intellectual disabilities. Existing research has examined the impact of “autism” on the person diagnosed with it, the impact of autistic people on others, and how culture may impact on how autism is understood. However, we have rarely questioned how culture has impacted on autistic people. This becomes more pertinent as the aetiology for sex differences in autism remain unclear, and we start to consider the role of gendered socialisation on how autistic women may present. This study aimed to examine how autistic women have made sense of their lived experiences in the context of the culture they are embedded within. This was achieved through an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis with eight autistic women with no diagnosis of intellectual disabilities. Three core themes emerged highlighting the pervasive impact of socio-cultural values on participants, followed by how they have individualised as autistic women, and finally reflecting on the importance of staying connected with society for them. By understanding autistic women in their contexts, a more representative portrayal of their relationships with others, strengths and needs was also offered. These have implications for the continued need to shift attitudes in society through dissemination of knowledge; and clinical implications for cultivating identity development and the building of meaningful connections with society for autistic women.
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