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I'm a Juggling Robot: An Ethnography of the Organization and Culture of Autism-Based Applied Behaviour Therapies in Ontario, Canada

I'm a Juggling Robot: An Ethnography of the Organization and Culture of Autism-Based Applied Behaviour Therapies in Ontario, Canada

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Title: I'm a Juggling Robot: An Ethnography of the Organization and Culture of Autism-Based Applied Behaviour Therapies in Ontario, Canada
Author: Gruson-Wood, Julia Frances
Abstract: This dissertation is an ethnographic study of the culture, social organization, and everyday practices of providers and recipients of autism-based applied behavior therapies in Ontario, Canada. Autism-based applied behavior therapies are highly controversial evidence-based autism interventions that have become the standard of care, and the only guaranteed-funded services, for autistic people in this province. These therapies are provided by teachers in public autism classrooms, by parents in the home, and by personal support workers in group homes with autistic residents. The lives of many autistic people in this province, whether at school, in the home, or the community, are structured through completing behaviour therapy activities.

The growing voices that resist and proliferate applied behaviour therapies, highlight the importance of critical scholarly attention to these therapies. This dissertation is situated within the fields of science studies, medical anthropology, and critical autism studies, and focuses on the experiences and practices of providers. Learning about what providers do, and how they make sense of what they do, helps to understand the professional culture in which they work, and the complex forces of power that govern both their activities and the everyday lives of autistic people in this province.

For this project, I completed an ethnography, which included participant observation activities and interviews with thirty-two providers and recipients of these therapies. To understand the complex power relations that constitute everyday enactments of behaviour therapies, I combined the governance-focused approach offered by Studies in the Social Organization of Knowledge, with anthropological approaches to ethnography that focus on meaning and description. The merger of these two methods of inquiry, where cultural analysis bolsters an organizational account, enables a rich and comprehensive analysis of behaviour therapy practices.
Subject: Cultural anthropology
Keywords: Autism
Governance
Applied behaviour analysis
Behaviour therapies
Science and technology studies
Medical anthropology
Ethnography
Studies in the social organization of knowledge
Institutional ethnography
Critical autism studies
History and theory of psychology
Autism advocacy
Work
Lay-professional expertise
Democratization of knowledge
Generosity
Type: Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Rights: Author owns copyright, except where explicitly noted. Please contact the author directly with licensing requests.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10315/35587
Supervisor: Mykhalovskiy, Eric
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Program: Science & Technology Studies
Exam date: 2018-08-24
Publish on: 2018-11-21

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