Share Magazine Summer 2017
Letter from the Editor
Alastair Clarkson, Researcher in Residence, Scottish Autism
When seeking to understand others, the medical philosopher Alfred Tauber has argued that any ‘fact’ held about an individual or group does not exist in a vacuum but links to values which frame our knowledge in the world. The majority of autism studies use methods that seek to quantify differences within autistic people. These medicalised approaches aim to establish facts which are often about physiology or ‘behaviour’. These forms of evidence remain inconclusive, partly due to their disconnection from the source of ‘value’ which provides context to knowledge about all individuals - that of the unique lived experience and respect for the intrinsic quality of relationships within life.
Moreover, what we ‘know’ about each autistic individual and what is important to autistic people can change across relationships, time and environment. Informed by their ethical understanding of support, staff are guided by practice values within Scottish Autism to deliver personalised programmes which can support autistic wellbeing throughout these changes. In the relation of fact and value, successful support brings a holistic context to our factual knowledge about autistic persons by linking what we ‘know’ about each individual to the values that staff actively promote within their practice. Although sharing knowledge within these processes can be challenging, these programmes are supported by a shared sense of values and respect for difference that staff hold across Scottish Autism.
This edition of Share beings together a range of articles which focus on knowledge within our autism services. They highlight our awareness of the value of knowledge held by staff and professionals, families and the people we support and identify the benefits of the approaches we use to manage this knowledge.
Our opening personal perspective from Ewan Dunn illustrates how knowledge of autism at the personal level and the provision of the right opportunities for transition and growth stem from our perception and response to individual expression and voice Clare Brogan reports on the innovative Get Set 4 Autism programme, where as project co-ordinator Clare brings sources of organisational knowledge together for families at the pivotal point of post diagnosis. This programme also uses the experiences of families to further support the empathic understanding of linked professionals. Shauna Donaldson presents a case study of a services forum within Fife, where the development of a safe structure for autistic people to share their opinions, views and expectations has supported various types of knowledge share.
Kate Leavy and Charlene Tait report on the development of an organisational culture of learning within Scottish Autism using the principles of knowledge management. They describe a variety of initiatives developed to utilize knowledge and practitioner expertise within the organisation and discuss the evolution of outcomes from a variety of innovative programmes. Showcasing this evolution within our feature article, Joanna Panese and Lucy McMath each present a case study within services which illustrate practice improvement outcomes arising from Scottish Autism’s own practice based self-assessment framework.
Within our conference review, Laura Hill discusses the importance of listening to the autistic people we know and support in order to better inform autism research. By appreciating the value of differences between types of cognition and communicative style Laura suggests we can move towards improving autism research and practice in a more meaningful way.
Many thanks to all the contributors.