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Encouraging real or make-believe citizen-workers?: Narratives of self-realization versus disabling support-to-work contexts by individuals with High Functioning Autism
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-1456-1207
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6330-5640
2019 (English)In: Alter;European Journal of Disability Research ;Journal Europeen de Recherche Sur le Handicap, ISSN 1875-0672, E-ISSN 1875-0680, Vol. 13, no 2, p. 126-140Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Sweden, like other Western countries, has a disability legislation that coexists with the Active Labour Market Policies. ALMP address a discourse emphasizing the importance of the able and productive ‘citizen-worker’, who is expected to crafthis/her own success through meaningful personal goals and ambitions. This discourse also impacts disability groups who are actualized for support-to-work interventions, such as people with high-functioning autism (HFA). The objective of this paper is to analyse how narratives targeting ambitions and self-realisation in work life are expressed by individuals with HFA in relation to the citizen-worker discourse. This ethnographic study comprises 26 qualitative interview narratives by 11 participants with HFA. Findings indicate that the participants have developed a strong citizen-worker identity. The will is an essential point of gravity, expressed through notions of individual meaningfulness and ambitions of being perceived as resources in any vocational context. Barriers to these ambitions are experienced as personally counteractive support-to-work practices. These results suggest that disability legislation and policies are caught in a mantra of stagnating normalisation, resulting in disability-worker interventions that are incompatible with meanings emphasized in the citizen-worker discourse, which is the new ‘normal’ of today.

Abstract [fr]

À l’instar d’autres pays occidentaux, la Suède a une législation sur le handicap qui coexiste avec les politiques d’activation sur le marché du travail. Le discours de ces dernières met l’accent sur le « citoyen-travailleur », compétent et productif, dont on attend qu’il réussisse en réalisant ses ambitions et des objectifs qui leurs soient personnels et auxquels ils attachent du sens. Ce discours touche aussi les groupes de personnes handicapées qui bénéficient d’aide à l’emploi, par exemple les personnes atteintes d’autisme de haut niveau de fonctionnement. En lien avec ce discours sur le citoyen-travailleur, l’article propose d’analyser comment ces personnes expriment leurs ambitions et rendent compte de la réalisation d’elles-mêmes dans la vie professionnelle. Cette étude ethnographique est constituée de 26 entretiens qualitatifs, menés avec 11 participants atteints d’autisme de haut niveau de fonctionnement. Les résultats montrent que les participants se sont approprié une forte identité de citoyen-travailleurs. La volonté joue un rôle central, elle s’exprime via les notions de sens personnel et d’ambition à être considéré comme une ressource, quel que soit le contexte professionnel. Les pratiques qui s’opposent aux mesures d’aide au travail sont perçues comme des obstacles à la réalisation de ces ambitions. Nos résultats suggèrent que la législation et les politiques du handicap restent prises dans l’éternel mantra de la normalisation, ce qui aboutit à des interventions auprès des travailleurs handicapés difficilement compatibles avec le sens valorisé par le discours du citoyen-travailleur, nouveau standard contemporain du « normal ».

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2019. Vol. 13, no 2, p. 126-140
Keywords [en]
Citizen-worker, High functioning autism, Inclusion, Self-realisation, Vocational rehabilitation, Work
National Category
Social Work
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-157714DOI: 10.1016/j.alter.2019.03.001ISI: 000467422900005Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85063028976OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-157714DiVA, id: diva2:1301295
Note

French title: Encourager des citoyens-travailleurs réels ou imaginaires ? Accomplissement de soi et aide à l’emploi dans les récits de personnes atteintes d’autisme de haut niveau de fonctionnement

Available from: 2019-04-01 Created: 2019-04-01 Last updated: 2023-03-24Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Ett meningsfullt liv med arbete?: Högfungerande individer med autism mellan funktionshinder- och arbetsmarknadspolitik
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Ett meningsfullt liv med arbete?: Högfungerande individer med autism mellan funktionshinder- och arbetsmarknadspolitik
2021 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this thesis is to study notions of employment among high-functioning individuals with autism (HiA) and their experiences of vocational rehabilitation or work-preparatory programs and to analyze how these experiences reflect upon the labor market policy’s and disability policy’s common shared goal of supporting individuals towards a socially included life with meaningful work. This study was conducted through ethnographic fieldwork in a private company (VRP) that operated as a service provider for the Employment Service Agency, and a Swedish residential folk high school (FHS). Both of the organizations provided work-preparative programs specifically for HiA. Three of the four sub-studies are based on qualitative data consisting of individual interviews, focus group interviews, and field notes from participant observations. The fourth sub-study represents an analysis of legal documents targeting employment and health in disability policy.

The results in sub-study 1 illustrate that the narratives provided by HiA strongly address the subject position of the citizen-worker. Their suggested ideal jobs were deprioritized in favor of more available jobs on the market. The central incentives to pursue either the ideal or second-option jobs can be identified as the personal perception of attaining a sense of meaningfulness through work, which was depicted as central to the sense of self-fulfillment, identity, and wellbeing. As the second sub-study shows, the fulfillment of personal ambitions and ideas of meaningful work was not met in the case of the VRP participants. Social inclusion was not experienced as a result of the received service provisions. The results rather indicate a manifestation of the normalization principle’s basic attributes with regard to spatial integration in work-like activities (disability-worker contexts) rather than social inclusion on an equal basis with others (citizen-worker contexts). The third sub-study then showcases how social work practices were produced at the intersection of clients’ needs and personas and the organizations’ conditional premises in FHS and VRP. The analysis resulted in the conclusion that a person-centered approach was lacking in the VRP whereas highly present in the FHS. The fourth and last sub-study focuses on how Swedish disability policy is constructed to meet the objectives of the CRPD regarding active citizenship that is associated with health (engagements in private life, work-life, community life, social/family life, etc.) and thereby full participation on an equal basis with others. The results suggest that the policy area of employment, implicitly and explicitly, overshadows the policy area of health and intimately associated life-areas that are important to wellbeing.

The conclusions are that FHS and ARP both reflect a strong dedication to provide services that aim towards preparing individuals for work. However, a more holistic approach in professional practices must be practiced in VRPs if a socially included life with a sustainable work situation for HiA is strived for. With regard to a socially included life with meaningful work, the above must be accounted for in addition to individuals’ personal perceptions and notions of meaningfulness.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet, 2021. p. 131
Series
Studier i socialt arbete vid Umeå universitet : avhandlings- och skriftserie, ISSN 0283-300X ; 98
Keywords
Disability policy, ethnographic fieldwork, high-functioning individuals with autism, labour market policy, meaningful work, social inclusion, welfare services.
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-183208 (URN)978-91-7855-517-8 (ISBN)978-91-7855-518-5 (ISBN)
Public defence
2021-06-11, Triple Helix, Universitetsledningshuset, Umeå, 10:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, 2012-1111
Note

Serienummer saknas i publikationen. 

Available from: 2021-05-21 Created: 2021-05-18 Last updated: 2021-05-21Bibliographically approved

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Nouf-Latif, FatenAndersson, KatarinaMarkström, Urban

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