Why are CA and/or DA Useful for Researching Autism?

The use of CA and/or DA is a relatively new way by which to methodologically and theoretically approach the study of autism and its various associated symptoms.

Historically, autism has been studied through the lens of methodological perspectives that have assumed it to be an ahistorical ‘thing’, existing outside the discursive field. More generally, in the broader autism literature, autism has primarily been represented as consisting of a set of ‘scientific facts’, which can be identified and treated by ‘experts’.

From a CA and/or DA perspective, autism can be reframed as a construct bounded within and contingent upon the discursive practices that make its naming, treating, and representing possible. Taking up a CA and/or DA approach allows an analyst to examine how everyday discursive practices make possible identifying, labelling, and treating children and adults diagnosed with ASD. Furthermore, such an approach can provide a nuanced understanding of the interactional practices that take place between individuals with autism and others, potentially impacting our understanding of how ‘behaviours’ come to be identified as ‘abnormal’ or ‘normal’ and are ultimately managed in everyday talk and text.

A useful resource for considering how a more social constructionist orientation may inform the study of autism is:

  • Nadesan, M. H. (2005). Constructing autism: Unraveling the ‘truth’ and understanding the social. New York, NY: Routledge.

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