An expert discussion on strengths-based approaches in autism

Anna Urbanowicz (Contributor), Christina Nicolaidis (Contributor), Jac den Houting, Stephen M. Shore, Katie Gaudion, Sonya Girdler, Ralph James Savarese

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Historically autism research and practice has been deficit focused. Only in recent years have we seen a shift away from deficit-based approaches toward strengths-based approaches. Current literature now includes work exploring and using strengths-based approaches in autism in a variety of clinical and research contexts. For example, clinical guidance for autism diagnostic assessments recommends using a strengths-focused approach to ensure that the strengths, skills, and interests of the individual are recognized.1 Research has explored the use of strength-based language by multidisciplinary clinicians in autism diagnostic reports,2 the use of strengths-based interventions to support young autistic adults prepare for leaving school,3 and called for new strength-based models for aging well on the autism spectrum.4

    Our editorial board feels strongly about adopting a strengths-based approach in Autism in Adulthood. That is why our author guidelines specify to use strengths-based language in favor of deficits-based language. For example “typically developing” or “nonautistic” rather than “healthy” or “normal”; “autistic traits” “characteristics of autism,” or “features of autism” instead of “symptoms of autism”; and “communication differences” instead of “communication deficits.”

    Although there has been an uptake of strengths-based approaches in autism research and practice of late, we still lack a nuanced understanding of these approaches; what defines a strengths-based approach? What are the downsides to using strengths-based approaches? How do strengths-based approaches affect the way we research autism and work with autistic individuals clinically? How do they affect autistic individuals’ lives? To help answer these and other questions, we brought together five panelists from across the globe with different perspectives and expertise in strengths-based approaches. Following is a transcript of our discussion, with minor edits for clarity.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)82-89
    Number of pages8
    JournalAutism in Adulthood
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019

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