Publication Date

Summer 2018

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Amy Krull (Director), Doug Smith, Steve Groce

Degree Program

Department of Sociology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are characterized by difficulties in social interaction and communication. Recent studies within the social sciences have espoused a need to reconceptualize autism out of the domain of the intrapersonal and into the realm of the sociocultural. Semi-structured in-depth interviewing was used to examine the selfperceptions and experiences of twelve people who identified as on the autism spectrum. Social scientists have tended to grant the topic of autism to the domain of psychology; as a result autistic perception has been stigmatized resulting in the exclusion of autistic perspectives in knowledge production on the lived experiences of autistic actors.

The first-hand accounts examined in this study lend support to the idea that symbolic interactionism provides a more nuanced framework for studying how autistic perception influences autistic experience in contrast to the functionalist-reductionist approach of cognitive psychology. From this perspective we can position autistic differences in disposition and interaction as socioculturally situated rather than as solely a result of individual cognitive impairment. The application of microsociological concepts to autistic perception and interaction has the potential to expand knowledge on both autistic experience and the social construction of normative order.


Social Psychology