Immeasurability, Biology, Identity. Citizenship and the Meaning of a Diagnostic Label for Adults Diagnosed with Autism

  • Kristien Hens
  • Raymond Langenberg


Today, more people are diagnosed with a psychiatric condition than ever before. Classifying a certain type of behavior or a pattern of ‘otherness’ under a specific diagnostic label has as a result that the classification itself shifts and expands, and also alters how people view themselves. This is what Ian Hacking called ‘the looping effect’. With regard to autism, the vast majority of research up until now has focused on finding biological explanations for the phenomenon. It is far less known, however, what it means to live with such a diagnosis. A diagnosis has potentially a large impact on how people reflect on their own identity, and on their relations with others in a professional or familial environment. For our research, we have interviewed 22 adults with a diagnosis of autism, in order to try to understand how people experience and evaluate themselves while having a diagnosis, how they experienced the diagnostic process itself and how this diagnosis helps them to overcome problems in their daily lives. How do they cope with the difficulties they experience in their relations, their work, and more in general, how do they participate in society? How do they perceive themselves as being different from or the same as others? Are there differences in how they cope with this ‘otherness’ before and after being diagnosed? Do they benefit from being diagnosed, and how do they combine this with potential disadvantages? In this chapter, we discuss the issue of otherness and classification, using themes and quotes from the interview study.


Autism Experience Ambiguity Diagnosis Citizenship 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristien Hens
    • 1
  • Raymond Langenberg
    • 2
  1. 1.Universiteit AntwerpenAntwerpenBelgium
  2. 2.Campus GelbergenHoeledenBelgium

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