Impact of Language on the Expectations of Individuals Working with Students on the Autism Spectrum

  • Amanda Field Student
  • Shayna A. Rusticus
Keywords: autism spectrum disorder, clinical language, person-centered language, expectations, stigma


Although autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has increased in prevalence over the past
sixty-years, the general treatment, understanding, and expectations associated with this
designation remain rudimentary at times (Fombonne, 2018). This study investigated the
perception of, and expectations placed on an individual with ASD by manipulating descriptive
vocabulary. A sample of 220 participants were randomly assigned to either a clinical language
(CL) or person-centered language (PCL) scenario involving a student on the autism spectrum
and were asked to respond to a set of items about their attitudes and expectations of this
individual. Results were analysed using t-test, chi-square, and ANOVA; they reflected support
for our hypotheses, participants in the CL group would report more apprehension or
nervousness regarding the student and presume lower intellect. Contrary to our hypotheses,
participants in the CL group did not place academic success lower on the list of priorities, did
not recommend the student maintain closer proximity to their support worker, or further
proximity from their peers. These results have the potential to raise awareness regarding
potential stigma when working with students with ASD.

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