Libbey Walker, Psy.D., is a 2023 graduate of the Psy.D. Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, New England

Dissertation Committee:

  • Theodore Ellenhorn, PhD, Committee Chair
  • Katherine Evarts, PsyD, Committee Member
  • Gina Pasquale, PsyD, Committee Member


Autism, mental well-being, neurodiversity, internalized stigma, critical autism studies

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Autistic populations experience significant mental health challenges. A growing body of research supports addressing autistic mental health problems using the framework of minority stress theory, the social model of disability, and the neurodiversity paradigm (e.g., Botha & Frost, 2018; Cage et al., 2018). This quantitative study explored how identification with the neurodiversity paradigm versus the pathology paradigm related to mental well-being in autistic adults. Participants (N = 135) completed an online survey in which they rated their identification with autism descriptions representing both paradigms. Participants also completed measures of psychological distress, self-esteem, personal autism acceptance, and internalized autism stigma. Most participants (81%) preferred the neurodiversity paradigm, while 6% preferred the pathology paradigm. Identification with the neurodiversity paradigm was correlated with higher autism acceptance and lower internalized stigma. Stronger identification with the pathology paradigm was correlated with higher internalized stigma and lower self-esteem. The results of this study suggest that autistic adults’ mental well-being might be improved by a multi-systemic shift to the neurodiversity paradigm. Clinical implications and future directions for research are discussed.


Libbey Walker

ORCID Scholar ID# 0000-0001-5485-0500