Rigid Therapies, Rigid Minds: Italian Professionals’ Perspectives on Autism Interventions

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Many therapies, interventions, and programs seek to improve outcomes and quality of life for people diagnosed with autism spectrum conditions. This paper addresses Italian professionals’ perspectives on a variety of such interventions, including TEACCH, ABA, Defeat Autism Now!, and Doman–Delacato. Drawing on participant-observation and interviews collected in 2012–2013 in a northern region of Italy, it highlights the theme of “rigidity” that appears in professionals’ discourses about both the characteristics of people with autism and the potential risks of adhering too strictly to any particular treatment protocol. The co-occurrence of the theme of rigidity across different domains demonstrates a way in which diagnostic characteristics become metaphors for medical practice. This paper proposes that such discursive moves may help bridge the gap between people with autism and people who work with them because a key attribute of people with autism—thinking and/or acting rigidly—is also a potential pitfall for people without autism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-253
Number of pages19
JournalCulture, Medicine and Psychiatry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 27 2015


  • Autism
  • Ethnography
  • Health and human services
  • Italy
  • Metaphor


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