Autism, "Recovery (to Normalcy)," and the politics of hope

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This article draws on the traditions of critical discourse analysis (N. Fairclough, 1995, 2001; M. Foucault, 1972, 1980; J. P. Gee, 1999) in critically examining the discursive formation of "recovery" from autism in applied behavioral analysis (ABA) discourse and its relationship to constructs of hope. Constituted principally in the work of O. I. Lovaas (1987) and C. Maurice (1993), and central to ABA discourse on recovery, has been the construction of a particular vision of hope that has at least 2 integral conceptual elements: (a) Hope for recovery within ABA discourse is constructed in binary opposition to hopelessness, and (b) recovery within ABA discourse is discursively constructed as "recovery (to normalcy)." The author analyzes these 2 pivotal ABA texts within the context of an analysis of other uses of the term recovery in broader bodies of literature: (a) within prior autismrelated literature, particularly autobiography, and (b) within literature emanating from the psychiatric survivors' movement. If, indeed, visions of hope inform educational policy and decision making, this analysis addresses S. Danforth's (1997) cogent query, "On what basis hope?", and asserts that moral and political commitments should be central sources of visions of hope and, therefore, inform educational policy and decision making for young children with labels of autism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-281
Number of pages19
JournalIntellectual and Developmental Disabilities
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2009


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