Nina-Rae Smith

Biography

Nina-Rae Smith has experience designing and facilitating community arts groups for young people from marginalised backgrounds. Nina has worked for several years as a youth worker and currently works as a disability support worker. She has provided individual support and community linking access to young women on the spectrum in addition to working in group settings with young people diagnosed with ASD.

Abstract

Subjective Wellbeing: An Autistic Girl’s Experience during Adolescence. (Oral Paper Presentation)

Wellbeing is a commonly used term in the social sciences and everyday life. The concept of wellbeing is often coined as a measurement of a person’s capacity to enjoy, engage or fully participate in life. In recent years, measuring wellbeing has become a standardised process, subject to generalisation and objectivity. While useful in many contexts, the notion of objective wellbeing measurement differs significantly from the practice of reflecting on one’s own concept of subjective wellbeing. The process of defining one’s own terms with regard to wellbeing and what makes a good life is rarely discussed in academic literature or health-related fields. The principles of personal experience, identity and subjectivity play a small and emerging role within social sciences research. This study explores how an adolescent autistic female defines wellbeing in her own life.

This presentation combines the findings from an in-depth systematic review of the current literature relating to autistic females during adolescence and wellbeing and the response of one adolescent female. Utilising a phenomenological methodology, one semi-structured interview took place via an online meeting format. This format provided for the added flexibility and comfortability required to ensure the participant could speak honestly and openly about her thoughts, feelings and processes. The data was thematically analysed through use of hermeneutics and contrasted with the findings from the literature review. Shedding light on this diverse and unique demographic, this research aims to explore the question, ‘What does wellbeing mean to you?’ Rather than assuming we are all-knowing, all-seeing and all-powerful as neurotypical human beings, it asks the individual to reflect on her experiences. The presentation invites the audience to conceptualise how a good life may look, feel or sound different to an autistic adolescent – highlighting the need to promote female voices in autism research through participatory research, education and empowerment.

“My autism isn’t a bad thing, I just see the world differently to other people.” – Anonymous, 2019

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