How is a sense of wellbeing and belonging constructed in the accounts of autistic adults?

Damian Milton, Tara Sims

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This small-scale exploratory study sought to develop an understanding of the meaning of well-being and social belonging as represented within the narratives of adults on the autism spectrum. Employing an interpretivist approach facilitated the investigation of potential contributory factors to these lived experiences in order to inform further research regarding both this topic, and service provision for adults on the autism spectrum. The project involved a thematic analysis of issues of the magazine Asperger United (AU). Four broad main themes were identified: meeting personal needs, living with the consequences of an ‘othered' identity, connection and recognition, and relationships and advocacy. Autistic adults reported many barriers to feeling that they belonged in a number of social spaces and the detrimental effect this had on their wellbeing. Fundamental to positive narratives of wellbeing, were feelings of connection and recognition from others and positive accepting relationships, with autistic-led spaces, particularly the Autscape conference, being frequently cited as of central significance in increasing feelings of wellbeing and belonging. This study has demonstrated a need for less focus on remediation and more on limiting the social isolation of autistic people.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)520-534
Number of pages15
JournalDisability & society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2016

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Disability & Society on 02/06/2016, available online:


  • Autism
  • well-being
  • belonging
  • thematic analysis


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