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Autism and neurodiversity: a new paradigm
  1. Sue Fletcher-Watson
  1. University of Edinburgh, UK


Sue Fletcher-Watson holds a Personal Chair in Developmental Psychology at the University of Edinburgh, and is Director of the Salvesen Mindroom Research Centre. She is interested in how children grow and learn, with a particular focus on development, neurodiversity and autism across the lifespan. Her work draws on rigorous methods from psychology and applies these to questions with clinical, educational and societal impact. She strives to achieve meaningful partnerships with community representatives and to support neurodivergent leadership in research. She is an advocate for open science and good citizenship in research, and serves as Co-Director of Research Ethics for the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine.

Abstract Neurodiversity is a simple, incontrovertible scientific fact, and yet the implications of this concept are both profound and radical. In this talk I will briefly examine how we have attempted to define, diagnose and support autistic people to date, showing the failings of these approaches. I will then go on to define neurodiversity and three core tenets of the neurodiversity paradigm. I will directly address some of the myths around neurodiversity, drawing on the work of prominent neurodivergent scholars to provide a solid basis for understanding. In the second half of the talk, I will then explore the potential of a neurodiversity paradigm to improve how we identify and provide support to autistic people. I will work through the implications of neurodiversity for clinical diagnostic and therapeutic practice, including a specific rebuttal of concerns that the neurodiversity movement is aligned with an anti-psychiatry position. I will ask: what would neurodiversity-affirmative services look like? And why and how should we create them?

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