Aspiedent CIC has a completely different ethos and philosophy to other organisations that work with autistic adults. Although we are autism led, a key difference is that we do not operate with the social model of disability. Instead we use a combination of the medical and social models of disability.
This means that we use the medical model to determine if there are any aids or autism strategies that could help those we work with, both during our training and in their day to day life. Then we look at what impairments are not catered for and try to meet half way so that everyone has to make some accommodations. These accommodations are not normally difficult to make.
The benefit of doing it this way is that it is more realistic in terms of what can be expected from the outside world. It also enables people to develop their own aids and gain an awareness of what reasonable adjustments they might need to ask for in other areas of their life.
A key concern that we have with the social model of disability is that it assumes that people stay the same and they do not grow and develop. It is about removing all barriers. The problem with this is that the result can be that autistic people are patronised as assumptions are made regarding their needs. Dr Elizabeth Guest (BSc, PhD, PGCHE) can testify that is not fun being on the receiving end of "general strategies" for communicating with autistic people. Although she does appreciate the effort being made, she would rather people tailored accommodations to her needs. Why not just ask?
In our interaction with our autistic clients, we prefer to take on something more akin to a mentoring role. Yes, we have knowledge and expertise we can impart, but as much as possible, it is up to the individual how they apply this to themselves.
We help autistic and neurodiverse people develop their own strategies to meaningfully participate in the wider community. It is important to us that people come to our service and then move on, with the option of further autism help if/when they need it.
Find the differences between the full social model of disability (in the context of autism and aspergers syndrome) and Aspiedent’s approach below.
|Social Model of Disability||Aspiedent’s Approach|
Autistic people are not disabled by their autism, but by society
|Asserts that Autism is in fact a lifelong disability and that the non-autistic world can be a very challenging environment for autistic people. However that does not mean autistic people cannot grow, change or develop. We use strengths to mitigate against weaknesses and build on areas of strength.|
|Asserts that society should adjust for the autistic person so that they can fully participate in society.||Believes that is it in fact impossible for either the autistic or the non-autistic population to make all of the adjustments for the other. We must meet somewhere in the middle. For example, society provides aids where possible (such as Irlen’s lenses for those who struggle with light sensitivity) and the autistic person adjusts where possible (e.g. learning and using basic social skills if they are able to and this is likely to assist them life.)|
|Barriers can be taken away through making adaptations to the environment||Sensory, social communication and executive functioning issues do cause problems for autistic people (regardless of whether adjustments can be made). There are benefits to learning strategies or using aids where possible to mitigate against these issues.|
|Society must change/ Society is to blame||Although, “Society” is continually evolving it cannot be relied on to change in appropriate ways to help a minority group quickly. We help to make the best out of life using what we have and by building on our existing strengths. We are all part of society and we must take responsibility for our own lives. However this does not mean we should not expect support when needed (and support others in need).|