Attitudes Towards Autism in Healthcare and in Society

Peters, Madeline
Autism did not appear as its own diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) until the third edition in 1980 (Davis, pg 461). In 2014, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that autism diagnosis rates were 1 in 110 and stated the high prevalence as "an urgent public health concern" (McGuire, pg 55). This declaration lead to autism being described as an epidemic, which then lead to a widespread sense of fear (McGuire, pg 56). Disability studies scholars take a different approach when looking at autism and disabilities in general. The two main views of disabilities discussed by disability studies scholars are the medical and the social model. The medical model views disability as something that needs to be fixed or cured and as a person-centered problem. The social model views disability as something that is socially constructed (Davis, pg 462). In today's health care, most health professionals view disabilities through the individual model. This takes the medical model to a new level and labels a disability as a tragedy. Disability studies scholars find this to be a nonproductive method of approaching disabilities (Durell). Because of this, a lot of medical students report discomfort when working with disabilities (Symons). Specifically, the field of occupational therapy (OT) is based on a client-centered practice philosophy. It has been argued that embracing disability studies and the viewpoints of disabled people could truly benefit the client-centered practice approach that is utilized by OTs (McCormack, page 2).
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