Drawing a line in the sand: affect and testimony in autism assessment teams in the UK

Jennie Hayes, Rose McCabe, Tamsin Ford, Ginny Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Diagnosis of autism in the UK is generally made within a multidisciplinary team
setting and is primarily based on observation and clinical interview. We examined how clinicians diagnose autism in practice by observing post-assessment meetings in specialist autism teams. Eighteen meetings across four teams based in the south of England and covering 88 cases were audio-recorded, transcribed and analysed using thematic analysis. We drew out two themes, related to the way in which clinicians expressed their specialist disciplinary knowledge to come to diagnostic consensus: Feeling Autism in the Encounter; and Evaluating Testimonies of Nonpresent Actors. We show how clinicians produce objective accounts through their situated practices and perform diagnosis as an act of interpretation, affect and evaluation to meet the institutional demands of the diagnostic setting. Our study contributes to our understanding of how diagnosis is accomplished in practice.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2020


  • Diagnosis
  • Autism
  • Sociology of diagnosis
  • Discourse
  • Thematic analysis
  • UK

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