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The many meanings of autism: conceptual and ethical reflections

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Autism is a polysemous concept. It is defined as a neurodevelopmental disorder that is diagnosed based on an assessment of behaviour and dysfunction. Autism also refers to a specific way of information or sensorial processing. For those diagnosed with autism, it is a real and shared experience. In this paper, I sketch the moral work that biological conceptions of autism perform. They help to conceptualize the diagnosis and associated challenges as real and they remove some of the blame from the diagnosed person and/or their parents. But such approaches also risk neglecting the role of behaviour as a meaningful reaction to experiences. In thinking about the ethics of autism research, diagnosis of autism, and autism care, the recent findings of epigenetics and systems biology may help us overcome the dichotomy between biology and psyche, and point the way to a more nuanced and ethical view. WHAT THIS PAPER ADDS: The meaning of 'autism' has different layers and as such autism is a polysemous concept. The lived experience of autistic people matters in research.
Journal: Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology
ISSN: 0012-1622
Issue: 9
Volume: 61
Pages: 1025 - +
Number of pages: 6
Publication year:2019