Many services can assist autistic people, such as early intervention, vocational services, or support groups. Scholars and activists debate whether such services should be autism-specific or more general/inclusive/mainstream. This debate rests on not only clinical reasoning, but also ethical and social reasoning about values and practicalities of diversity and inclusion. This paper presents qualitative results from a mixed-methods study. An online survey asked autistic adults and parents of autistic people of any age in Canada, the United States, Italy, France, and Germany what types of services they prefer (autism-specific, mixed-disability, or general/inclusive/mainstream). This paper presents the advantages and disadvantages of different service types, identified through inductive thematic coding and organized into higher-level themes focusing on clinical, structural, societal, interpersonal, and personal aspects of services. Autism-specific services were praised for addressing autism needs, helping clinically, and providing interpersonal benefits of others understanding autism; general services were praised for inclusion, helping clinically, community obligations and awareness, and social skills development. Looking at the interaction of these different aspects in respondent narratives nuances debates about autism-specificity, with a complex interplay between clinical, interpersonal, and societal aspects. Clinical and social perspectives are not necessarily separate and opposed, but intertwined based on different understandings of inclusion. Compared to parents, adults focused more on harm/safety issues, enjoyment, and stereotyping among other themes, attending to personal themes. These findings do not identify one best service type, but suggest that determining the right service in a given context may be informed by definitions of and goals about inclusion.
- Service provision