How Furry Culture Can Help People on the Autism Spectrum
People on the autism spectrum often struggle to form social connections and find community. But an international, interdisciplinary team of researchers are learning where many people on the spectrum find a comfortable home-among the Furries.
Donned in white lab coats with paw print accents, Duquesne University Assistant Psychology Professor Dr. Elizabeth Fein and fellow researchers from FurScience have been conducting research at Furry conventions across North America, including the annual Anthrocon in Pittsburgh.
Preliminary research indicates between 10-15% of Furries have been diagnosed or self-identify as being on the autism spectrum. At the conventions, Fein and her team conduct focus groups and surveys to find out more about what draws people on the spectrum to the fandom.
Some benefits for people on the spectrum who don anthropomorphic animal costumes, or "fursuits":
- Builds self-esteem
- Lessens anxiety
- Fursuits act as "sensory buffers" (offer narrowed, controlled environments that are protective against sensory overload)
- Makes interacting with others easier (many on the spectrum are much more comfortable using gross motor skills that are common for a suited character, rather than using subtle, non-verbal social skills)
- Creates sense of community with a niche interest (having a shared interest removes the pressure to engage in small-talk).
Given the frequent misrepresentation of Furry culture in the popular media, Fein and her team aim to provide accurate, non-biased information and research about Furry fandom and its benefits.
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Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The University's academic programs, community service, and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim.
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