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‘Normal People’? An Autistic analysis into neurodiverse communication, and innovation through diversity.

AXBEY, HARRIET,ANNE (2023) ‘Normal People’? An Autistic analysis into neurodiverse communication, and innovation through diversity. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Interactions form a major part of our lives, and how successful or not these are deemed to be can affect not only our own and others’ happiness, but also our health and life outcomes. The Autistic community have had a long and difficult history, with changing diagnoses over the past 100 years confusing and manipulating what we define as ‘normal’. Where previously Autism was framed within deficit models, with Autistic people lacking a ‘Theory of Mind’ (TOM), the ability to ‘read minds’, Autism is now being understood within the neurodiversity framework and the double empathy problem. These suggest that Autistic people are not deficient in social abilities, but that they merely interact differently to their not-Autistic, oft-described as ‘neurotypical’, peers. Not-Autistic people struggle to understand Autistic ways of thinking and communicating, described in this thesis as an ‘Autistic Theory of Mind’ (ATOM). This thesis examined secondary data, in the form of interactions between Autistic and not-Autistic pairs within diffusion chains, for similarities and differences in the length and number of silences, as well as the output of success from a tower-building task. Findings suggest the longest and most numerous instances of silences between people occurred in mixed-neurotype (neurodiverse) pairs, suggesting a potential lack of rapport between these social actors. There were no significant differences in task success across conditions. A content analysis also showed no significant differences in the topics of conversation between pairs across conditions, or in the instances of offering or help to a partner. Photos of the towers were then analysed for similarity by 351 independent raters (62 Autistic) in an online task, to explore whether replication or innovation were more common depending on the neurotype match or mismatch within the interaction. Outputs were judged as significantly more varied in the neurodiverse groups, showing that participants were less likely to replicate from a participant with a different neurotype to themselves. There were no significant differences in similarity judgements between the Autistic and not-Autistic participants. This is a small-scale study, and future replication of these results is needed to make larger inferences about what this could mean for creativity within groups of neurodiverse people. Further research could explore replication and innovation on a larger scale, looking at group dynamics as opposed to pairs within a diffusion chain.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Autism, Neurodiversity, Education, Innovation, Replication
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Education, School of
Thesis Date:2023
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:28 Mar 2024 09:08

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