Navajo and autism: the beauty of harmony

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With so much unknown about autism, the disability tends to reflect the sociocultural preconceptions people project onto it. The predominant narrative in Western society of autism as a ‘disease’ within the medical model contrasts with the more positive, empowering view of autism as a ‘difference’ in the social model and neurodiversity movement. Society has also discriminated against and disabled the Navajo Native Americans since the arrival of Euro-Americans. Navajos resiliently balance between exercising self-determination within their own nation and adapting to outside society, with a culture that remains remarkably intact. The Navajo thus presented exceptional opportunity for cross-cultural analysis. It suggested that the traditional Navajo social constructs of harmony and beauty, as encompassed by a wellness philosophy called Hozho, better serve the needs of Autistic people than the Western notion of ‘progress’ through science and technology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)583-595
JournalDisability & Society
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2011


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