Narratives About Autism: An Analysis of YouTube Videos by Individuals Who Self-Identify as Autistic

Am J Speech Lang Pathol. 2019 May 27;28(2):569-590. doi: 10.1044/2018_AJSLP-18-0045. Epub 2019 Apr 17.


Purpose The goal of this study was to expand the field's understanding of autism through the analysis of 1st-person perspectives from autistic video webloggers (vloggers). Method This study analyzed the representation of autism in 39 YouTube videos authored by self-identified autistic individuals and published between 2007 and 2015. Consistent with the cross-disciplinary tradition of narrative inquiry, thematic analyses of the video transcripts were conducted. Findings Vloggers were predominantly, but not exclusively, White male adults who spoke mainstream American English and self-identified as experiencing Asperger's syndrome. Key findings included (a) the predominance of a narrative about autism that incorporated features of both the medical model of disability and the neurodiversity paradigm to varying degrees, (b) a trend toward more medical model features across most content areas, and (c) a relatively high prevalence of neurodiversity paradigm features related specifically to language use and the description of autistic traits. Conclusions Implications include the need for clinicians to (a) familiarize themselves with the varying views of autism held within the autistic community, (b) reflect on the language used to talk about autism and listen to how clients and/or their caregivers talk about it, and (c) consider the exploration of potential positive dimensions of autistic traits.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Asperger Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Asperger Syndrome / ethnology
  • Asperger Syndrome / psychology*
  • Autistic Disorder / diagnosis
  • Autistic Disorder / ethnology
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology*
  • Cost of Illness
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice* / ethnology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Psychological
  • Narration*
  • Self Concept*
  • Social Behavior
  • Social Media*
  • Video Recording*
  • Young Adult