Re-writing the “rules of engagement”: Using critical reflection to examine ableist social work practice


  • Jessica Fox Queensland University of Technology, Australia



Critical reflection, social work, ableism, neurodiversity


INTRODUCTION: Normative beliefs and practices reaffirm a hegemonic construction of human ability that legitimises the socio-cultural status quo. This disenfranchises people with diverse abilities who are excluded from this construction whilst simultaneously normalising the structural inequality and oppression that they experience. Helping professions such as social work often provide support to people who are disadvantaged by these social structures. However, practitioners within these fields are not immune to the influence of socio-cultural norms, therefore it is essential for them to reflect on the ways in which they might reproduce them within their practice.

APPROACH: This article outlines my experience of using critical reflection as a research methodology to examine an incident from my practice. Deconstruction and reconstruction methods were used to analyse the normative assumptions within my construction of this incident.

REFLECTIONS: The deconstruction analysis revealed how assumptions about impairment within my account of the incident were underpinned by ableist discourses. Reconstructing this through a neurodiversity lens enabled me to generate new insights around the anti-oppressive potential for using a pluralistic approach that undermines hegemonic constructions of ability.

CONCLUSIONS: By critically reflecting on this incident, I realised the importance of challenging normative assumptions when practising within neoliberal contexts where socio-cultural hegemony is amplified.


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How to Cite

Fox, J. (2021). Re-writing the “rules of engagement”: Using critical reflection to examine ableist social work practice. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 33(1), 44–54.



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