Social Work Dissertation Defense by Kathryn Szechy

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Date: March 3, 2023
Time: 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Category: Lecture

The Wayne State University School of Social Work invites you to attend the dissertation defense of PhD Candidate Kathryn Szechy. Szechy will be presenting titled Autism, Adulthood, and Employment Challenges:  The Double Empathy Problem and Perceptions of an Autistic Employee in the Workplace.

High unemployment rates are found among adults on the autism spectrum. Problems with social functioning in the workplace for autistic adults can be significant barriers to employment success. Consistent with the medical model of disability, autistic adults’ social functioning challenges have been attributed to impairments in Theory of Mind (ToM) or the ability to understand the mental states of another person from observation. Alternatively, consistent with the social model of disability, the Double Empathy Problem (DEP) posits that social challenges arise not from the ToM deficits within the autistic person but instead from empathic misunderstandings in the autistic and non-autistic social interaction. This dissertation study compared these two competing theories of autistic social challenges within the context of the workplace. Chapter Two describes the development of a ToM measure towards a hypothetical autistic employee and its use in demonstrating evidence in support of the DEP. Chapter Three examined predictors of accurate interpretations of an autistic employee’s behaviors including autism knowledge and experience. Chapter Four examined the association between accurate interpretation of autistic behavior and attitudes towards an autistic employee’s competence and social acceptability in the workplace.  

This presentation will occur over Zoom:  

March 2023