Thursday, 12th December

Time: 2 – 4pm

Place: Sheffield Hallam University, City Campus. Charles Street Building, Room 12.2.19 (This is on the second floor), Howard Street, S1 1WB.

Speaker 1: Sam Fellows

Title: “Why symptom-based approaches are not enough: the value of psychiatric diagnoses”


Critics are concerned that psychiatric diagnoses fail to accurately describe patients and therefore should be abandoned. Most patients do not have all symptoms associated with their diagnosis and most patients have symptoms which are not associated with their diagnosis. Knowing someone has a diagnosis seems to convey much less useful information compared to knowing what symptoms someone has. This situation has lead critics of psychiatric diagnosis to claim diagnoses make no contributions to understanding individuals, they are harmful distractions and should be abandoned (e.g. Timini, Gardner & McCabe 2011). Psychiatrists should instead establish what symptoms an individual has rather than give them a diagnosis. In this paper I will employ Ronald Giere’s account of scientific theories to show that those critics are mistaken to see psychiatric diagnosis as making no useful contribution.

Giere describes how scientific theories are abstract generalisations which lack specific detail. For example, Newton’s laws, by themselves, make no claims about the world. Rather, they guide the building of more specific models and these specific models can be used to make claims about the world. He describe scientific theories as “recipes for constructing models” (Giere 1994, p.293). This notion of scientific theories as recipes which guide the building of less abstract models has not yet been applied to psychiatric diagnoses.

Psychiatric diagnoses should be seen as recipes for constructing models of people. I argue they guide the construction of models of people, making contributions to understanding individuals which are absent when simply focusing upon what symptoms are being presented by specific individuals. Firstly, many symptoms can be subtle and difficult to spot. A patient may be unaware of the symptom and psychiatrists cannot practically investigate for every possible symptom. Psychiatric diagnoses can help guide investigation of symptoms. If an individual exhibits a few symptoms of a psychiatric diagnosis then there is reason to investigate for other symptoms of that psychiatric diagnosis. For instance, if an individual exhibits low social skills and low eye contact, both of which are symptoms of autism, then there is reason to investigate for other symptoms of autism. This may help spot subtle symptoms such as rigid thinking or difficulty accommodating to changes. Thus the diagnosis guides investigating for the presence of symptoms. Secondly, patients fluctuate in the symptoms they present over time. The symptoms which are presented to a psychiatrist at time of interview may not cover symptoms previously exhibited or those exhibited in the future. However, knowing the individual has a diagnosis which is associated with a range of symptoms, more than any one diagnosed person actually exhibits, guides awareness towards a range of possible symptoms not present in a diagnosed person at one specific time. The diagnosis guides awareness towards alternative symptoms that may present at other times within diagnosed individuals. Thirdly, symptoms themselves have a level of generality and may manifest in quite different ways. For example, the low social skills of autistic individuals are typically quite different to the low social skills of schizophrenic individuals. Thus knowing the diagnosis of an individual can lead to greater understanding of how specific symptoms manifest. The diagnosis guides building more realistic models of ways individuals manifest symptoms.

By framing psychiatric diagnosis in terms of Giere’s account of scientific theories I have shown how psychiatric diagnosis make a contribution to understanding individuals. Thus critics of psychiatric diagnosis are mistaken to believe psychiatric diagnosis make no contribution and are mistaken to believe they should be abandoned.


Giere, Ronald, N. (1994). The Cognitive Structure of Scientific Theories. Philosophy of Science, 61/2, 276-296.

Timini, Sami., Gardner, Niel. & McCabe, Bain. (2011). The Myth of Autism (Palgrave-McMillian).

Speaker 2: Richard Woods

Title: Is the concept of Demand Avoidance Phenomena (Pathological Demand Avoidance) real or mythical?


This talk presents results of a content analysis of the diagnostic and screening tools for the proposed autism subtype Demand Avoidance Phenomena (DAP, commonly called Pathological Demand Avoidance), investigating if the construct has specificity. There is much growing interest in DAP and despite the lack of supporting evidence, some expect it to be included in England’s coming Autism Strategy. Specificity is when a trait is unique to a particular subject. I replicated a similar content analysis conducted by Nick Chown on tools for Broader Autism Phenotype and Autistic Traits. His results suggest that those constructs lacked specificity and are reified constructs. It is frequently argued in the DAP literature that it lacks specificity, by replicating Nick Chown’s study; I am attempting to falsify this viewpoint. I will present my full results at the talk. My preliminary analysis of the main 2 tools for DAP, the Extreme Demand Avoidance-Questionnaire and 11 items on the Diagnostic Interview for Social and Communication Disorders, support the common notion that DAP lacks specificity. These results would indicate how seriously DAP should be taken and if it should additionally be diagnosed in non-autistic persons.


‘Duty of Care’ workshops – University of Sheffield

Message on behalf of Holly and Ryan at University of Sheffield:

We still have several places available for our inaugural ‘Duty of Care’ event on the 12th December.

These ‘Duty of Care’ workshops will focus on researcher vulnerability and we are hoping to highlight the physical, psychological and mundane vulnerability that can accompany the research process. We endeavour to create an informal and relaxed space where new researchers can share their stories and experiences and learn from one another. We hope that this event might provide the catalyst for the formation of an informal ‘Duty of Care’ support group, amongst other things.

We would love to see you there – free tickets available below:


If you have any queries, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Best wishes,

Ryan Bramley and Holly Burkinshaw


Thursday 12th December

***More Details to follow closer to the event***

Time: 2 – 4pm

Place: Sheffield Hallam University, City Campus. Charles Street Building, Room 12.2.19 (This is on the second floor), Howard Street, S1 1WB.

Speaker 1: Sam Fellows

Title: “Why symptom-based approaches are not enough: the value of psychiatric diagnoses”

Speaker 2: Richard Woods

Title: TBC – presentation around the results of content analysis of screening tools for Broader Autism Phenotype


Article submissions wanted – Advertising and diversity

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

Special issue: Advertising and diversity: The framing of disability in promotional spaces

Guest editors:

Ella Houston and Beth Haller


In recent years, disabled people are increasingly featured in advertisements. Moreover, disabled people are now included in a larger variety of advertisements, for example, those produced by fashion and beauty companies. On the subject of contemporary advertising portrayals of diverse bodies, Lennard J. Davis (2013:4) highlights ‘… a trend to embrace the diversity of the human body within certain kinds of limits… cherry-picking the aspects of diversity that appeal to a regnant paradigm’. In other words, while the makers of advertisements now may be more likely to feature disabled people in their campaigns, traditional beauty standards and expectations are often not strongly challenged. While it is beneficial that the makers of advertisements include disabled people in their campaigns more frequently, it is problematic that portrayals of disability tend to be limited in the ways diverse bodies, minds and lives are imagined.

Building on this understanding of the representation of ‘diverse’ bodies in advertising, the overall aim of this special issue is to examine the representation of disability, and themes surrounding diversity, in advertising. In doing so, we welcome contributions that offer critically informed analyses of disability portrayals in advertising that might draw on work from fields such as: disability studies, gender studies, critical race theory, cultural studies, media and communication studies. Proposals for papers that may explore (but are not limited to) the following questions and topics are welcomed:

–          The representation of disabled people in international advertising campaigns

–          Intersectional analyses of advertising representations of disability

–          Reoccurring narratives surrounding disability in advertisements – are historical narratives and stereotypes surrounding disability challenged and/or reinforced in contemporary advertising?

–          Audience responses to advertising representations of disabled people

–          Disability, celebrity and advertising

–          Cross-analyses of portrayals of disability in multi-media advertising

–          The extent to which ableist ideologies are challenged or reinforced in contemporary advertising

–          Interdisciplinary approaches to discourses surrounding diversity in advertising

–          Contemporary and/or historical analyses of the representation of diversity in advertising

–          Advertising disability and diversity in neoliberal contexts

–          The accessibility of advertisements featuring disabled people

–          Promotional use of disabled people by disability organizations



27th January 2020: Deadline for submission of 250-word proposal for articles and a short biography to the guest editors Ella Houston and Beth Haller at JLCDS.ads@gmail.com

10th March 2020: Prospective authors will be notified of proposal status

19th October 2020: Full versions of selected papers to be submitted to guest editors

25th January 2021: Final papers will be selected. Authors will receive decisions and revisions on papers

20th April 2021: Deadline for submitting final, revised papers to guest editors.


Monday, 18th November – Come join us!

Time: 2 – 4pm

Place: Sheffield Hallam University, City Campus. Charles Street Building, Room 12.4.18 (This is on the fourth floor), Howard Street, S1 1WB.

Speaker 1: Celina Kamecka

Title: Dis-ability = dis-active? Reasons for discussing civic activity of Polish students with intellectual disabilities


For 4 years I have been conducting civic education workshops in special schools in which students with intellectual disability learn in Poland. During this time I carried out 3 research projects regarding the civic activity and identity of students and I would like to talk about it. It will not surprise anyone how important and effective civic education is.  And it is already a truism to speak about the rights guaranteed to persons with disabilities by the UN Conventions. That is why in my presentation I would like to focus on two other aspects. First, how Polish students with intellectual disabilities perceive themselves as citizens, and how they evaluate their civic activity.  Secondly, how the support system for people with intellectual disabilities in Poland can determine their perception of their citizenship. Presenting the results of my research, I will focus on video recordings that students have prepared themselves as part of the film workshop title: “what is the common good for me”. And on our conversations regarding the space of their civic activity,  which is a deepening of the answers obtained in the adapted questionnaire for quantitative research. Author’s adaptation of the ready questionnaire for civic activity to the needs of people with intellectual disabilities – which I will also present, showed new fields of social and research participation of my respondents.

Speaker 2: Stephen Connolly

Title: Everyone should do emancipaticipatory research, but i don’t want to do it again.


This talk will be on the issues encountered when doing emanciparticipatory research right. Focusing on the methodology of my PhD I will be discussing the unexpected but now obvious paradoxical effect where the bigger the strength for those that would be traditionally termed participants, the bigger the issue you face as a researcher.

Terms linked to emanciparticipatory research would be freedom, flexibility, open and no time pressures. However within the confines of academia these terms present a problem that must be navigated for emanciparticipatory research to survive.

This overarching problem also forms the foundations for my argument that emancipatory research is a goal that currently can not be achieved within academia and i am to explain why.


Call for presenters

Hello everyone

This post is to announce three seminar dates this side of Christmas. I have been unable schedule more dates for after Christmas as my academic timetable isn’t finalised, but these will follow in January.

If you would like to present this side of Christmas we have the following dates and times available, please drop me an email (s.r.hannam-swain@shu.ac.uk) and let me know which would be best for you. There are usually two people presenting per 2 hour session (approx 20 minutes each for the presentation and 40 minutes each for discussion).

Monday, 21st October. 2pm – 4pm

Monday, 18th November. 2pm – 4pm

Thursday, 12th December. 2pm – 4pm.

Once I have people allocated to a slot I will update the Events page on this blog with the speakers name, presentation title and a short abstract.




DRF – 2019/2020

Hi everyone!

I hope the start of the new academic year is treating you well!

Just a quick announcement to say that we do intend to run DRF sessions again this academic year and I hope to be able to put some dates up on the website within the next two or three weeks.

If you would like to present please drop me an email (s.r.hannam-swain@shu.ac.uk) and I’ll contact you soon with some suggested dates.

Hopefully see you all soon!



Job Vacancy! Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in Education – Sheffield Hallam University

Job details – Closing date 8th September
Lecturer / Senior Lecturer in Education
Social Sciences And Humanities
Grdae 7/8 – £34,189 to £50,132 per annum dependent on experience
Contact Person : Dr Jean Harris-Evans or Dr Iain Garner Contact Number : 0114 225 4585/4848
Date Advertised : 25-Jul-2019 Closing Date : 08-Sep-2019
Employment Type : Permanent – Full Time Location : City Campus
Job number : 052005

For further information please see this link: http://bit.ly/shu-education


New project looking for contributions

Dr Amy Kavanagh (@BlondeHistorian) is launching a new project all about disabled women & non-binary people’s experiences of non-consensual touching and intrusive behaviours. The message below is from Amy inviting you to participate.

I’ve collaborated with Dr Hannah Mason-Bish (an academic from the University of Sussex who has researched street harassment to create a research project inspired by my own campaign and also the movement.

Using a blog, we’re inviting disabled women & non-binary people to contribute their stories about unwanted help, non-consensual touching, intrusive behaviours and harassment in public. All the stories are anonymised and will be used to support the development of more research into the issue, including some interviews with willing contributors. I understand this is a difficult subject for many, and recognise it can bring up distressing experiences. However, we think it’s essential that disabled women & non-binary people aren’t forgotten from the discussion about street harassment and we hope this research will have an impact, and demonstrate problematic many of the intrusive behaviours are.

I would really appreciate it if you felt able to contribute your own experiences, and tweet about the project, you can use the tweet below or do your own if you feel comfortable doing so. You can read all about the project including an information sheet here Thank you, Amy

Suggested Tweet:

Private places, public spaces is a new research project which invites disabled women & non-binary people to record their experiences of unwanted touching & public harassment. Please share your story & read more about the project here