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'Autistic [Neuro]Queer Pioneers' Using participatory autism research, performance, and visual art to articulate the experiences of late diagnosed autistic women (cis- and trans-) and non-binary people

Foster, Annette (2022) 'Autistic [Neuro]Queer Pioneers' Using participatory autism research, performance, and visual art to articulate the experiences of late diagnosed autistic women (cis- and trans-) and non-binary people. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.95638) (KAR id:95638)

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Background: Much autism research is predicated on the assumption that autistic people are male and/or male-brained. This gendered diagnosis has led to the marginalisation of a group of autistic people that do not have these stereotypical male autistic traits (i.e., systematising, externalised presentation of autistic behaviours such as stereotypical meltdown and stimming) being mis-/undiagnosed. This group includes autistic women (cis-/trans-) and non-binary people (AWCTN+). The author, who is AWCTN+, did not have these stereotypical traits and remained misdiagnosed with mental health issues until aged 39.

Methods: Their experience became the impetus for this thesis; to address the knowledge gap about adult AWNBT+ peoples' lived experiences using creative methods. Drawing on their performance art background, they designed nine two-hour creative workshops (CWs) to construct an autistic space that encouraged a group of adult late-/ self-diagnosed AWNBT+ university students to articulate their experiences of being autistic. The culmination of these workshops was a 90-minute collaborative performance piece that was to be shown to the public. A series of recordings from the creative workshops plus one-to-one interviews with the participants were transcribed and analysed using elements of grounded theory and thematic analysis. Post-performance interviews were also conducted. This thesis develops a new form which I have entitled 'embodied autieethnography performance'. A method which has built on other autistic academics' use of autieethnography as the autistic form of autoethnography. This was the method I used for my solo performance Adventures of Super Autie Girl to articulate my own experience of being autistic which was further developed to incorporate the experiences of the co-performers in Adventures of Super Autie Gang (ASAG).

Results: Seventeen people were recruited and participated in at least two of the CWs. Eight participants consented to one-to-one interviews and all participants consented to the CWs being recorded. All data were anonymised and transcribed before being analysed. Five themes emerged from these data: 1) Autistic Connectivity/Autistic Space; 2) Labels and Identity: Reappropriation; 3) Stimming/Body Signs; 4) Autistic Sensory Experience; 5) Articulating and Re-Evaluating Autistic Needs. The collaborative performance piece, ASAG, was a culmination of all the knowledge learned in the CWs and was co-created with five of the CW participants. It was shown on April 30, 2019 at the Autism Arts Festival, University of Kent, UK.

Conclusion: The emergent themes appear to challenge the validity of the male and/or male-brained model of diagnosis, which does not appear to adequately describe the experiences of AWNBT+ people. In addition, CW participants reported increased: self-acceptance; pride; confidence to articulate their needs and stim in public. The thesis also identified the importance of autistic spaces.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Shaughnessy, Nicola
Thesis advisor: May, Shaun
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.95638
Uncontrolled keywords: Autistic Diagnosis, Female Neuroqueer, Autiethnography Ethnography, non-binary performance qualitative art neurodiverse neurodivergent
Subjects: N Visual Arts
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The theatre
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Arts
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 01 Jul 2022 10:10 UTC
Last Modified: 26 Jul 2022 11:31 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Foster, Annette.

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