Panning for Gold: The Standardizing Work of Filling “Autistic” Shells – Using institutional ethnography to explore textually mediated health relations in the diagnostic process of autism.

Michael Corman

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

    Abstract

    Health reform practices in Canada and elsewhere have restructured the purpose and use of diagnostic labels and the processes of naming such labels. Diagnoses are no longer only a means to tell doctors and patients what may be wrong and indicate potential courses of treatment; some diagnoses activate specialized services and supports for persons with a disability and those who provide care for them. In British Columbia, a standardized process of diagnosis with the outcome of an autism spectrum disorder gives access to government provided health care and educational services and supports. Such processes enter individuals into a complex of text mediated relations, regulated by the principles of evidence-based medicine. However, the diagnosis of autism in children is notoriously uncertain. Because of this ambiguity, standardizing the diagnostic process creates a hurdle in gaining help and support for parents who have children with problems that could lead to a diagnosis on the autism spectrum. Such processes and their organizing relations are problematized, explored and explicated below. Grounded in the epistemological and ontological shift offered by Dorothy E. Smith (1987; 1990a; 1999; 2005), this article reports on the findings of an institutional ethnographic study that explored the diagnostic process of autism in British Columbia. More specifically, this article focuses on the processes involved in going from mothers talking from their experience about their childrens problems to the formalized and standardized, and thus “virtually” produced, diagnoses that may or may not give access to services and supports in different systems of care. Two psychologists, a developmental pediatrician, a social worker – members of a specialized multidisciplinary assessment team – and several mothers of children with a diagnosis on the autism spectrum were interviewed. The implications of standardizing the diagnosis process of a disability that is not clear-cut and has funding attached are discussed. This ethnography also provides a glimpse of the implications of current and ongoing reforms in the state-supported health care system in British Columbia, and more generally in Canada, for people’s everyday doings.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationPanning for Gold: The Standardizing Work of Filling “Autistic” Shells – Using institutional ethnography to explore textually mediated health relations in the diagnostic process of autism.
    Publication statusPublished - 2007
    EventAnnual Conference of the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP) - San Francisco, United States
    Duration: 06 Aug 1998 → …

    Conference

    ConferenceAnnual Conference of the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP)
    CountryUnited States
    CitySan Francisco
    Period06/08/1998 → …

    Keywords

    • Institutional Ethnography
    • Autism
    • Diagnostic Process

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    Corman, M. (2007). Panning for Gold: The Standardizing Work of Filling “Autistic” Shells – Using institutional ethnography to explore textually mediated health relations in the diagnostic process of autism. In Panning for Gold: The Standardizing Work of Filling “Autistic” Shells – Using institutional ethnography to explore textually mediated health relations in the diagnostic process of autism.