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For #WeeklyPapers this week, I've chosen to present a new paper that is explicitly about autistic men.

While there is a lot of autism work which has mostly/all male samples, looking at male lived experiences *in their own right* is still surprisingly rare!

#Autism #AutisticMen
"What does success mean for autistic men? A narrative exploration of self-determination" (2020) Webster & Garvis, ADLI

Most of my work has focussed on non-male autistic people, so I'm looking forward to reading qual work that looks at male exps w/gender lens, not as 'default'

Most outcome work assumes/shows neg adult outcomes, so want to talk to aut men who see themselves as successful. 10 men interviewed, self-determination theory emerged as key theoretical lens. Success felt to come from work, self-awareness & self-reflection.

Lit Review

Self-determination theory (SDT) is based on taking action, making decisions and reaching goals w/o undue influence of others.

Comes from need for autonomy, competence and relatedness, and is assoc w/better wellbeing & life satisfaction

#Autism #Success
Those w/marginalised identities (e.g. autistic) may construe success in different ways to 'traditional' (work, living alone, relationships)

So it is key to focus on own definitions and how these impact wellbeing, as called for by aut activitists

#WeeklyPapers #Autism #Success
Research to date has rarely looked at autistic SD separate to those w/other disabilities, or asked parents/carers rather than aut ppl themselves.

Even studies that ask aut ppl tend to focus on 'deficits' & be quant in nature rather than aut accounts

#Autism #WeeklyPapers
Those that do look at SD in aut ppl also tend not to look at gender as a factor or to separate out results by gender

Considering growing evidence for diff lived exps of aut by gender (duh), important to look at how aut men define success in a world w/clear expectations for men
(FS side note - the authors also have a paper where they did the same study with women, published in 2017 *I think*)

It is really interesting, and I may well have covered it in one of these threads at some point!

#Autism #AutismGender #AutisticSuccess

10 autistic men, age 25 - 55 took part in interview

7 were single, 1 long term partner, 1 married, 1 divorced

9 currently employed/in education, 1 retired

All formally dxd

#Autism #AutismMen #AutisticSuccess

Several factors influenced the men's sense of success:

1) being my own self
2) a competent professional
3) solving problems in a NT world
4) relating and connecting

(I want to go back and do a comparison with the women's themes now!)

#WeeklyPapers #AutisticSuccess
1)Being my own self

All gave rich descriptions of themselves, and showed they valued things that could be seen as 'difficult' by others as part of their identity.

Range of views on dx label and usefulness, but self-acceptance linked to self-confidence for all


Self-awareness helped ppts feel successful as they reflected on exps and how to make choices for desired outcomes in the future

Many said happier not relying on others, either as high self-confidence in problem solving or due to prev being let down

2) A competent professional

Accomplishments both in education and work came up freq as markers of success (poss as externally validated/easily identified?)

Several had turned interests into careers, and 3 self-employed talked about how success inc. knowing when to ask for help

Men all described their skill sets and the areas where they felt strong/secure as ways of demonstrating success e.g. intelligence, self-management strategies

These helped them be successful in overcoming challenges in professional (and wider) lives

#WeeklyPapers #Autism
3) Solving problems in an NT world

Following from the above, exps of solving problems led to greater feeling of success, as could point to specific instances where they had triumphed

Analytical skills, info gathering, and 'learning NT rules' were mentioned freq as part of this

Ppts also talked about how they used films, music, and learning from peers/family all helped them develop their sense of the NT rules, and so how to navigate them successfully

#Autism #AutisticSuccess #AutismMen #WeeklyPapers
4) Relating and connecting

Ppts talked about their relationships as a key element of feeling successful, but several still experienced difficulties in this area

Many felt isolated/were bullied when younger, though some used this to form friendships w/others e.g. through gaming

Many said had actively worked on improving social exps as was important to them

Younger men gen said they wanted romantic rels, older men gen decided did not need these after neg exps

Fatherhood was super important to 2 men who were, described unique bonds w/kids


Ppts talked about support from others in their life to be successful/believe they could be

However, they *said* initially that they had done everything themselves - like to think of being more independent than actually are

Often linked soc exps to own competence

First study to look at how autistic men define success for themselves, and found that themes were similar to the elements of SDT

Autonomy and competence idenfitied as central, with more complex views on rels with/support from others

#AutisticSuccess #WeeklyPapers
Contrary to much research which says aut ppl display lower levels of autonomy, men in this study felt they rarely asked for/had help from others, and autonomy was strongly linked to feeling successful

They also talked about how being autistic helped them to do this, not hindered
While feeling successful in professional areas of life, many men felt relationships were where they were least successful, for various reasons

This was the element of SDT which they least identified with, despite giving egs of when others had helped them/rels went well

Important to note that men volunteered and self-identified as successful, so would be good to know if findings resonate with those who do not feel that way about themselves overall (e.g. may feel successful in something specific)

#AutisticSuccess #AutismMen #WeeklyPapers
Study shows it's crucial to provide opps for problem solving/success to build self-esteem and willingness to try new challenges

I mean, this is something we've known for years in education research, but nice to know we're all catching up with each other! 😂

Some of the things men talked about, esp reluctance to ask for help, suggest that gender differentiated strategies for support may be needed (e.g. less likely to go to a mentor?)

FS note: these should not be rigidly applied, obvs!

#AutisticSuccess #AutismMen #WeeklyPapers

1) small sample size. You all know my views by now - exploratory qual work is by nature small 🤷‍♀️
2) Australia only - sure, can't be helped!
3) Self-report. I HATE that this is considered a limitation for lived exp work!

#AutisticSuccess #AutismMen #WeeklyPapers

SDT was used as a framework for understanding answers about success for autistic men, who emphasised competence and autonomy but less so relatedness, which was a more complex picture.

Aut ppl should be given opps to show success to build self-belief

My Thoughts

This is a nice little paper - the findings are really clear, and make sense in the theoretical setting

I feel like a bit more analysis and less description would be good - no links made to wider ideas of masculinity, which is a major missing element for me

My Thoughts 2

I'm also surprised not to see any comparisons to the authors own work on how autistic women talked about their success - autonomy is a key overlap, but otherwise women talked a lot more about relationships/mentoring and the role of dx.

My Thoughts 3

Especially as those differences play into wider assumptions about gender and success and femininity/masculinity.... I now feel like both my critiques are actually one big intertwined ball of critique!

#AutisticSuccess #AutismGender #WeeklyPapers

It's nice to see work focussed on positive life outcomes, autistic people who feel they are doing well, and actually hearing from autistic people on those points.

So I can't fault the paper for that 😊

See you all next week!
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