The purpose of this project is to study the testing and diagnosis of children who are being considered for an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Since the early 1990s, there has been a huge upsurge in ASD diagnosis. Sociological and epidemiological studies can account for much of the increased prevalence. However, little attention has been paid to the concrete ways in which clinicians and the child are engaged in the examination process. Attention also needs to be given to what happens after completing the exams with a child; how clinicians consult with one another about their findings, determine a diagnosis, and present that diagnosis to parents and other caretakers. Such considerations should be extended to how family, legal, economic and other factors affect diagnosis.

Intellectual Merit

There are three parts to our study corresponding to the three sets of concerns indicated above. The first aim is to do a sociology of testing, understanding the organized social interactions and collaborative skills by which clinicians and children engage in examination tasks. The second aim focuses on the narrations associated with what clinicians have found in testing, the discussion of those findings and attempts resolve any discrepancies among themselves, and the presentation of their diagnostic conclusions to family members and other caretakers such as educators. The third aim is to explore how, in their testing and diagnostic determinations, clinicians and caretakers may orient to social contexts surrounding autism diagnosis including family, legal, educational, administrative, and economic factors.

Potential Broader Impacts

This study of interactions in the testing and diagnostic process potentially means better understanding of ability/disability and greater inclusion of ASD individuals in society. It additionally provides for the discovery of unanticipated avenues and future research into the causes, consequences and treatment of ASD. Finally, the project also involves the training of graduate student sociologists as Science and Technology Scholars concerned with ASD.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES)
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Frederick M Kronz
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University of Wisconsin Madison
United States
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