Report of our first dialogue: for professionals and students of autism.

Report by Dr. Liz Milne
(Director of Sheffield Autism Research Lab, University of Sheffield).

On the 21st September, Sheffield Autism Research Lab (ShARL) hosted a Bohm Dialogue on the topic of autism spectrum conditions. Facilitated by Mr Jonathan Drury, the Dialogue was the first of its kind to address autism.

Bohm Dialogue takes the name of David Bohm FRS – an American theoretical physicist who worked with Einstein at Princeton University. It generates a free exchange of ideas and information without an agenda. The aim of Dialogue is to enable delegates to reach a common understanding about the topic under debate, and to experience everyone’s point of view fully, equally and non-judgmentally. As such it provides a supportive environment to examine preconceptions and prejudices among peers which can lead to a new and deeper understanding.Sheffield Autism Research Lab

There is an increasingly wide range of definitions, criteria and ideas around Autism Spectrum Conditions, some changing regularly, some driven by factors such as culture. There’s also a need for a clearer understanding of autism in society.  In this era of rampant technology rapid-fire communication, the Dialogue offered a welcome opportunity for delegates to explore ideas and experiences associated with the autism spectrum. Topics discussed included “what is autism?”, “what autism means to me”, “the benefits and challenges associated with autism” and “what can society do to improve lives for autistic people and their families”.   Delegates included autistic adults, family members of autistic people, academics and students.

The Dialogue was part of a series of events organised by Elizabeth Milne from the department of Psychology as part of a British Academy funded Mid-Career Fellowship investigating autism in adulthood. Dr Milne and Mr Drury plan to run future Dialogue sessions which will involve autistic and non-autistic people from different cultures and sectors of society, and autistic people exclusively, in order to explore the role that Dialogue can play in increasing a common understanding and ultimately improving lives of autistic people.

 

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