Date of Award

12-2013

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Interdisciplinary Program

Advisor

Stephen Gilson

Second Committee Member

Elizabeth DePoy

Third Committee Member

Kristina Passman

Abstract

The current perception of an autism epidemic in Maine is facilitated by the expanding diagnostic criteria and financial incentives for more diagnoses and more services. This medical model effort assumes that simply having autism is problematic and attempting to normalize people with autism will lead to cost efficiency and better fits for society. Maine’s 2013 Autism Report indicated no clear correlation between increased services and decreased costs, less dependency, or improved quality of life. On the contrary, the “crest of the epidemic”, as defined by those that are most costly and transitioning to adulthood, have likely been receiving services for the longest period of time after the “epidemic” began. There is no significant qualitative or quantitative data from the perspective individuals and families with autism in the report, indicating what they identify as problematic or needed for functioning at home, school, work or in the community. There is no evidence to date that increased supports and services as they are currently being delivered are resulting in better quality of life for people with autism. The purpose of this article is to highlight that this data, as well as the inclusion of people with Autism Spectrum Disorders in policy and decision making are needed in order for Maine to effectively serve and meet the needs of its autistic citizens. In addition, this may yield different identification of problems, needs for resources and allocation of funding.

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