"Autism is me": an investigation of how autistic individuals make sense of autism and stigma



Botha M, Dibb B & Frost DM (2022) "Autism is me": an investigation of how autistic individuals make sense of autism and stigma. Disability & Society, 37 (3), pp. 427-453.

There are many different perspectives for understanding autism. These perspectives may each convey different levels of stigma for autistic individuals. This qualitative study aimed to understand how autistic individuals make sense of their own autism and experience the stigma attached to autism. The study used critical grounded theory tools. Participants (N = 20) discussed autism as central to their identity, and integral to who they are. While participants thought of autism as value neutral, they expressed how society confers negative meanings onto autism, and thus, them. The findings also indicate that different understandings of autism confer different levels of stigma. Participants expressed constant exposure to stigma and managed this stigma in different ways. Such methods included reframing to more positive understandings of autism, the reclamation of language, and using concealment and disclosure strategically. The implications of these findings are discussed further in the article.

Autism; stigma; minority-stress; identity; identity first language

Disability & Society: Volume 37, Issue 3

Publication date31/12/2022
Publication date online06/10/2020
Date accepted by journal09/09/2020
PublisherInforma UK Limited

People (1)


Dr Monique Botha
Dr Monique Botha

Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, Psychology