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Furthering the conversation on emotional labour: ableist attitudes and prevention

I found Natasha’s recent blog on emotional labour in research very interesting. I agree with her and hope those affected are supported.

Something which came to mind when reading was that although some emotional labour comes with the job, not all of it should, and in some cases it is preventable.

Autistic academics researching autism write about the emotional labour involved in their work and networks they’ve set up to support each other. e.g., the Participatory Autism Research Collective (PARC). As well addressing others’ emotions and one’s own, there is the issue of unavoidable brutal narratives based on medical models, such as ‘curative’ approaches, eugenics, and ‘justified’ infanticide.

For autistic researchers researching autism, emotional labour is not just the price to pay for human understanding. Emotional labour is the cost of advocating for the humanising of autistic people in disciplines which de-humanise, navigating the power inequality between professional and lived experience, and absorbing debunked myths which remain pervasive despite contemporary research to the contrary.

The emotional labour of practitioner psychologists is starkly exemplified in the latest edition of The Psychologist, with a neurodivergent psychologist being exposed to ableism from their colleagues in the workplace.

Something has to change when the psychological professions contribute to the emotional labour of some of their members in academia and practice. Ableist attitudes are deeply entrenched and reinforced by the language used in discussing autism. I feel Natasha’s point about emotional labour being more referenced at the organisational level is relevant, to reflect on why ableist attitudes are endemic and the expression of which remains unchecked without accountability.

A good action for the BPS Taskforce for Diversity and Inclusion would be to carry out a co-produced, anonymous survey of BPS members in academia and practice, including those with lived experience, to explore their experiences of emotional labour, then to work with those with lived experience on what needs to change systemically and how.


Autistic psychologists. (2022). Neurodiversity is not just for those we work with. The Psychologist, 35, 2-5.

Bottema-Beutal, K., Kapp, S.K., Lester, J.N., Sasson, N.J., Hand, B.N. (2021). Avoiding ableist language: Suggestions for autism researchers. Autism in Adulthood, 3(1), 18-29.

Milton, D, Ridout, S, Kourti, M, Loomes, G and Martin, N (2019). A critical reflection on the development of the Participatory Autism Research Collective (PARC). Tizard Learning Disability Review.

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