Revealing Conflicting Ideologies: a Critical Discourse Analysis of Autism Terminology in Academic Journals

Verónica Vidal*, Pamela Urra*, María Fernanda Cerda Diez*, Carla Becerra León*, María Consuelo Ramos Alarcón*, Juan P. Cortés*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The discussion about the words and concepts related to autism is alive in the scholarly community, tacitly or explicitly. Contrasting ideologies linked to the medical model and neurodiversity paradigm underlie terminology referring to autism. The present proof-of-concept study conducted a critical discourse analysis of the terminology (i.e., microstructure) used to describe autism in two academic journals across four decades. Specifically, we utilized the framework provided by Bottema-Beutel et al. (2021) to analyze 35 articles published in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders and Autism. These articles were reviewed with a focus on terminology used to describe the concept of autism, autistic individuals, and nonautistic individuals. The main findings support the feasibility of this proof-of-concept study. They revealed a predominant use of potentially ableist language across the four decades and a slow incorporation of alternative terms usually linked with more inclusive language in the last decade. We suggest that this change has been driven by the autistic community in a process of democratizing the role of experts. Accordingly, we recommend including autistic individuals' choices to designate their community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-24
Number of pages20
JournalTopics in Language Disorders
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

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  • academic journals
  • autism
  • ideologies
  • language
  • neurodiversity


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