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Representations of Autistic selfhood in everyday life: Towards a prototypical approach

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posted on 2022-07-11, 00:51 authored by Lionel EvansLionel Evans
Quantitative research conducted by Thorpe (2018) found that in Australia adults with Autism experienced significantly lower levels of subjective wellbeing when compared to the non-Autistic population (p. 34). In this thesis, qualitative analysis is utilised to identify what the state of wellbeing Australian adults with Autism ‘looks like’. From this benchmark, different person-centred strategies have been designed that may have the potential to enhance an individual with Autism’s ability to further develop their wellbeing. The qualitative analysis of wellbeing in Autism is represented within this thesis as a series of graphic-based prototypes. The prototypes are introduced as a series of multifaceted interpretive tools. The first facet of the prototypes is that they can initially identify the levels of development in an individual with Autism’s current domains of wellbeing. Another facet of the prototypes is their ability to identify potential areas of wellbeing that could be enhanced through designing and enacting person-centred action plans. Examples are provided of how prototypes and action plans can be utilised by an individual with Autism: their parents; siblings; partners; other family members; friends; and allied professionals to further develop wellbeing. The prototypic representations of wellbeing in individuals with Autism were formed through the selection and utilisation of multiple qualitative methods and data analysis techniques. Content from semi-structured interviews was analysed utilising a discursive-based process that identified personal pronoun-based representations of self within a wellbeing context. Underpinning and overarching each aspect of the current research is an analytic auto-ethnographic approach. Interpretation of the discursive analysis data utilised iterative classification to identify organic patterns of language that were labelled as ‘facets’. These facets included participant responses, associated emotions, strategies, and consequences relating to a range of specific situation-based antecedents. The language-based facets were subsequently utilised to form the structural arrangement of the graphic prototypes. A combination of heuristic inquiry and critical auto-ethnography established that patterns of interaction were occurring between the different prototypes. Analysis of the interactions between the prototypes identified an association between stress/anxiety and sensory processing issues (SPI). Within this situation, stress/anxiety acts as a catalyst that may exacerbate SPI and subsequently lower an individual’s ability to accurately identify and interpret emotions. The consequence of this interaction is that it may restrict an individual’s advancements in wellbeing. Findings from the research suggest that the interaction between stress/anxiety and SPI may be cyclical in nature throughout an individual with Autism’s life. To counter the stress/anxiety and SPI cycle, a process to construct tailored person-centred action plans is introduced and discussed. My original contribution to knowledge is the innovative construction of graphic prototype-based tools and action plans that provide insight into Autism and wellbeing. The tools and plans may initially assist an individual with Autism to identify representations of their gifts, strengths and capacities. The tools and plans may also assist the individual being able to accurately identify: the emotions associated with a particular situation; alternative strategies that could be enacted to enhance the possible outcomes of the situation; and recognise the consequences of not taking any action. The prototypes may also allow an individual with Autism to gain the ability to self-monitor their levels of stress/anxiety and SPI, where such insight may be utilised to develop effective strategies to break out of the stress/anxiety/SPI cycle and be able to enhance their wellbeing. In summary, this research provides the opportunity for individuals with Autism and their allies to utilise new processes that identify representations of self within a wellbeing context. The formation of targeted, person-centred action plans may subsequently allow an individual with Autism to rally their unique gifts, strengths and capacities to maximise their wellbeing.


Number of Pages



Central Queensland University



Place of Publication

Rockhampton, Qld.



Open Access

  • Yes

Era Eligible

  • No




Professor Denise Wood AM ; Professor Emeritus Bruce Allen Knight

Thesis Type

  • Doctoral Thesis

Thesis Format

  • Traditional