Date of Award
Dr. Michelle Jarman
Attitudes Towards Autism in Healthcare and in Society
Madeline Peters with Dr. Michelle Jarman
Physiology University of Wyoming
Honors Hays, KS
Autism did not make its way, as its own diagnosis, into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) until the third edition in 1980 (Davis 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 55). This declaration lead to autism being described as an epidemic, which then lead to a widespread sense of fear (McGuire 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 462).
In today’s health care, most health professionals view disabilities through the individual model. This model 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 20). With this, a lot of medical students report feeling uncomfortable when working with disabilities (Symons 251). 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 OTs use (McCormack, “Can” 340).
Peters, Madeline G., "Attitudes Towards Autism in Healthcare and in Society" (2017). Honors Theses AY 16/17. 58.