Dr Steven Kapp
A developmental psychologist, I am a Lecturer in Psychology with expertise in autism and neurodiversity. My academic background includes psychology, education, public policy, and disability studies, with additional publications in anthropology, medicine, and neuroscience reaching diverse audiences and readerships.
After becoming aware of the neurodiversity and disability rights movements in 2007, I became involved in advocacy on developmental disabilities and speaking and research on autism. I graduated from the University of Southern California with a BSc in Public Policy, and served on California state projects to support people with learning disabilities' transition to competitive, integrated employment from 2010 to 2016. As director of science in the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, I substantially influenced the revision of autism's diagnostic criteria in the DSM-5. As a MA (2013) and PhD (2016) student in Human Development and Psychology within Education at University of California, Los Angeles, I began to research and teach on autism and neurodiversity. This included first authorship on a study on autism and the neurodiversity movement in Developmental Psychology that presented the first known direct comparison of autistic and non-autistic people's attitudes toward autism, and provided evidence on both the views and influence of the movement.
My postdoctoral career has taken place in the UK. As a Research Fellow on the Wellcome Trust-funded project Exploring Diagnosis: Autism and Neurodiversity at the University of Exeter (2016-2019), I published research on all dimensions of the project (diagnosis as a process and category, and the consequences of diagnosis). This included producing the edited collection Autistic Community and the Neurodiversity Movement: Stories from the Frontline, the first history of the neurodiversity movement by first-hand accounts of advocates and activists. In October 2019 I joined this department as a Lecturer.
Generally my research has consisted of attempts to understand autism and means of supporting autistic people. I feel passionate about the quality of life of autistic people, both in subjective well-being and practical life domains such as healthcare and employment. Autistic traits fall within my keen interests as well, including how behaviours such as stimming (repetitive movements and vocalisations) and averted eye contact may serve as functional coping mechanisms. Furthermore, identity, rights, and support needs of autistic people sit comfortably within my lines of research.
Such research has taken a variety of forms, such as qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods, and ranging from community-based participatory research to new conceptual syntheses and frameworks.
I lecture on Social Construction of Disability and coordinate the module option Careers in Psychology as part of the second-year Professional Developmental and Employability module (BSc [Hons] Psychology). Next year I will coordinate the new Neurodiversity Studies module for the MSc in Psychology and Learning Disability.