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Exploring the Identity of Autistic Individuals: Reconstructing the Autism Epidemic Myth

  • Matthew Bennett
  • Amanda A. Webster
  • Emma Goodall
  • Susannah Rowland
Chapter

Abstract

Currently, there is much discussion in print, online and television media across the world about the “autism epidemic”. Although the rates of diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have increased, it could not accurately be described as an “epidemic”. This chapter begins with an examination of the origins of this myth and an overview of studies, which have measured the prevalence of autism spectrum diagnoses. It then explores current theories surrounding the increasing numbers of individuals who have received a diagnosis of ASD, with specific attention to the changing diagnostic criteria and greater awareness of the autism spectrum among parents, teachers and healthcare professionals including paediatricians and psychologists. The impact of this myth for the autistic community will be explored, and the implications of a neurodiversity paradigm on revising perceptions around the autism epidemic myth will be discussed. The chapter will conclude with an exploration of the benefits of shifting current thinking from viewing the increasing prevalence of autism as an “epidemic” to be stopped, to developing a consciousness of autistic individuals as comprising part of the natural variation of society who encompass a range of strengths and needs.

Keywords

History and diagnosis of ASD Prevalence Incidence Public awareness Neurodiversity theory 

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew Bennett
    • 1
  • Amanda A. Webster
    • 2
  • Emma Goodall
    • 3
  • Susannah Rowland
    • 4
  1. 1.University of WollongongWollongongAustralia
  2. 2.University of WollongongWollongongAustralia
  3. 3.University of WollongongWollongongAustralia
  4. 4.University of WollongongWollongongAustralia

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