Title

Considerations on what moves us: autistic sociality and occupational justice

1

Location

Portland Room

Start Time

1-10-2016 10:30 AM

End Time

1-10-2016 12:00 PM

Session Type

Panel

Abstract

Core philosophical assumptions in the practice of occupational therapy hold that humans can shape the state of their own health and sense of belonging to larger communities through opportunities to do and to create (Reilly, 1962). These assumptions are explicitly addressed in theory development around occupational justice, including the impact of occupational deprivation, marginalization, alienation and the like on well-being and social inclusion. Anthropologist Dawn Eddings Prince’s states “There were many times as a child I believed I would crumble in on myself, my emotional skeleton finally eaten away by the screaming and clutching of a modern society that dissolved me—normal life, other people call it” (Prince, 2010, p. 56). Her embodied experience of living asks us to reconsider what is the relationship between engagement in daily activities and participation when “normal” is experienced as “the screaming and clutching of a modern society” that eats away, crumbling and dissolving the very bones of existence. As an autist, her experience also asks us to reflect upon our assumptions of the relationship between engagement in daily activities and, as first put forth by Mary Reilly (1962) in her seminal work, “making a home in the world and making the world a home” (p. 2) from an occupational justice perspective.

In this panel, we will draw from funded ethnographic and participatory research conducted in Los Angeles and Montreal to examine how the experiences of children with autism and their families shifted our focus to the mundane, almost invisible, actions by which persons with autism and intimate others transform and transcend what is considered “normal” and create experimental scenes (Mattingly, 2010; Park, 2008) to re-envision, enact and embody a more just society. Taking as a starting point, Lawlor’s contribution of what it means to be a socially-occupied being “doing something with someone else that matters” (Lawlor, 2003, p. 430), we will highlight the ways in which our narrative and aesthetic conceptual frameworks highlighted significant moments and events that moved us and challenged us to refine our own own assumptions as occupational therapists and occupational scientists. We will also reflect on how these brief moments cross time, capturing both past experiences and future possibilities; and transcend immediate contexts, reconfiguring immediate physical space into places of being engaged and included in social worlds.

Keywords: Sociality, Autism, Occupational justice

Questions:

1. How is it that seemingly ordinary or mundane moments of life can be experienced as extraordinary?

2. In what ways do narrative, aesthetic, and ethnographic approaches contribute to deeper understandings of engagement and participation for people with autism and their families?

3. From a social accountability and occupational justice perspective, what is at stake in considering individuals with autism as socially occupied beings?

4. Does a more focused application of principles of occupational justice generate better possibilities for enhancing participation for people with autism and their families?

References

Lawlor, M. C. (2003). The significance of being occupied: the social construction of childhood occupations. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 57(4), 424-434.

Mattingly, C. F. (2010). The Paradox of Hope: journeys through a clinical borderland. University of California Press.

Park, M. (2008). Making Scenes. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 22(3), 234-256.

Prince, D. E. (2010). An Exceptional Path: An Ethnographic Narrative Reflecting on Autistic Parenthood from Evolutionary, Cultural, and Spiritual Perspectives. Ethos, 38(1), 56-68.

Reilly, M. (1962). Occupational therapy can be one of the great ideas of 20th century medicine. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 16, 1-9.

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Oct 1st, 10:30 AM Oct 1st, 12:00 PM

Considerations on what moves us: autistic sociality and occupational justice

Portland Room

Core philosophical assumptions in the practice of occupational therapy hold that humans can shape the state of their own health and sense of belonging to larger communities through opportunities to do and to create (Reilly, 1962). These assumptions are explicitly addressed in theory development around occupational justice, including the impact of occupational deprivation, marginalization, alienation and the like on well-being and social inclusion. Anthropologist Dawn Eddings Prince’s states “There were many times as a child I believed I would crumble in on myself, my emotional skeleton finally eaten away by the screaming and clutching of a modern society that dissolved me—normal life, other people call it” (Prince, 2010, p. 56). Her embodied experience of living asks us to reconsider what is the relationship between engagement in daily activities and participation when “normal” is experienced as “the screaming and clutching of a modern society” that eats away, crumbling and dissolving the very bones of existence. As an autist, her experience also asks us to reflect upon our assumptions of the relationship between engagement in daily activities and, as first put forth by Mary Reilly (1962) in her seminal work, “making a home in the world and making the world a home” (p. 2) from an occupational justice perspective.

In this panel, we will draw from funded ethnographic and participatory research conducted in Los Angeles and Montreal to examine how the experiences of children with autism and their families shifted our focus to the mundane, almost invisible, actions by which persons with autism and intimate others transform and transcend what is considered “normal” and create experimental scenes (Mattingly, 2010; Park, 2008) to re-envision, enact and embody a more just society. Taking as a starting point, Lawlor’s contribution of what it means to be a socially-occupied being “doing something with someone else that matters” (Lawlor, 2003, p. 430), we will highlight the ways in which our narrative and aesthetic conceptual frameworks highlighted significant moments and events that moved us and challenged us to refine our own own assumptions as occupational therapists and occupational scientists. We will also reflect on how these brief moments cross time, capturing both past experiences and future possibilities; and transcend immediate contexts, reconfiguring immediate physical space into places of being engaged and included in social worlds.

Keywords: Sociality, Autism, Occupational justice

Questions:

1. How is it that seemingly ordinary or mundane moments of life can be experienced as extraordinary?

2. In what ways do narrative, aesthetic, and ethnographic approaches contribute to deeper understandings of engagement and participation for people with autism and their families?

3. From a social accountability and occupational justice perspective, what is at stake in considering individuals with autism as socially occupied beings?

4. Does a more focused application of principles of occupational justice generate better possibilities for enhancing participation for people with autism and their families?