Academic journal article The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work

Collective Narrative Practice with Young People with Aspergers Syndrome Who Have Experienced Bullying

Academic journal article The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work

Collective Narrative Practice with Young People with Aspergers Syndrome Who Have Experienced Bullying

Article excerpt

The young people who participated in this project all had Asperger Syndrome (Aspergers) and had all experienced bullying which had invited them to develop negative identity conclusions. According to poststructuralist ideas, problems are products of culture and history and 'identities are constantly created in relationship with others, with institutions, and with boarder relations of power' (Thomas, 2002, p. 87). Bullying is therefore a problem constructed by the culture and the broader society. Before describing my work with young people who had experienced bullying, I'd like to illustrate these contexts and unmask the power of social discourses which are related to Aspergers and bullying.

Young people with Asperger Syndrome

Asperger Syndrome was first named by an Austrian pediatrician, Hans Asperger, in 1944. He studied some young patients who had similar social difficulties, such as lack of nonverbal communication skills, limited empathy in their relationship with others, and difficulty in figuring out what the other people were thinking or feeling (Autism Speaks, n.d.). Asperger Syndrome was added to the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-4) in 1994. Cashin (2008) revealed that although autism does not affect 'personality' or 'temperament', it can increase anxiety for people in complex social situations, especially adolescents. The dominant pathologising discourses in Hong Kong construct a 'deficiency' identity or 'disabled-person identity' for young people with Aspergers.

With the influences of these pathologising discourses, most professionals commonly use normative ideas in practice. Michael White (2011) described that modern power sets up a whole range of norms for people's lives and engages people to discipline themselves according to these norms. People who do not comply with these norms are classified as 'abnormal' and are often 'corrected' back to the sociallyaccepted behaviours. These pathologising discourses execute their power in constructing the thin description of the lives of young people with Aspergers. Morgan (2000) stated that 'thin description leads to thin conclusions about people's identities' and 'thin conclusions often lead to more thin conclusions as people's skills, knowledges, abilities and competencies become hidden by the problem story' (p. 13-14). Therefore, the insider-knowledges of young people with Aspergers are disregarded under the conventional intervention approaches which only privilege expert knowledges. Some conventional 'interventions', for instance, Applied Behavioral Analysis, social story1 and social skills training groups, are dominant in the social services organisations and schools in Hong Kong. All of these intervention approaches use the language of 'deficiency' or 'disability' in understanding the hardships of young people.

Norman Kunc and Emma van der Klift shared an alternative concept of 'neurodiversity' in an interview about relocating the problem of disability (Dulwich Centre Publications, 2015). The concept of neurodiversity views autism as constructed by the society and draw on a social model of disability (Krcek, 2013). This leads to understand the experiences of disability in a social context rather than an individual context. Norman shared his idea of moving from the presumption of deficiency to the consideration of ideas of diversity. Using this concept, I was encouraged to explore the multi-identities of young people with Aspergers instead of the problematic identities related to disability.

Bullying in the school context

During my last three years working as social worker with young people with Aspergers, I have often heard stories about bullying experiences due to the effects of marginalisation from institutions, systems, and social discourses. To better investigate and understand the situation of students with Special Education Needs (SEN) in Hong Kong, the Equal Opportunities Commission commissioned the Centre for Special Educational Needs and Inclusive Education of The Hong Kong Institute of Education to conduct a research project called Study on equal learning opportunities for students with disabilities under the integrated education system (Equal Opportunities Commission, 2012). …

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