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For this study, we adapted their guidelines to include the following two criteria for inclusion: the online content 1 did not require registration or permission for accessing the site or for leaving comments and 2 has been viewed more than times. In addition, we reached out to all eight bloggers to request permission to reference their blog title and screen name and received explicit permission from all but one blogger who did not respond to our e-mail requests. We included the blog post of the blogger who did not respond to us because it was considered a publically accessible document.

For this blogger, we used a pseudonym. We would have honored requests not to include blog posts in our analysis had this been asked of us none of the bloggers requested this. The first author is a doctoral student studying autistic individual's transition to adulthood. The second author is a professor of special education specializing in the interaction dynamics of autistic children and adolescents. We both approached the data corpus through a neurodiversity lens and believed that the voices of autistic individuals need to be valued in research, and also when making decisions about interventions or support systems.

No doubt, our positionalities influenced each stage of the research process, including forming the research questions, selecting analysis methods, analyzing extracts, and interpreting findings. The first author collected the data corpus and reviewed the data in an initial pass to identify various grammatical, discursive, and contextual features relevant to identity formation in narratives.

Subsequently, the first and second author compared the grammatical, discursive, and contextual features that emerged from the initial pass against the data corpus to isolate and organize potential domains of discursive moves based on the types and the purposes of different discourse features.

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The identified domains were then consolidated and reconstructed into two overarching phenomena: 1 situating the self in relation to story antagonists and to the reader and 2 mobilizing webspace e. Segments that clearly illustrate each of these domains were selected as representative examples and are included in the text below.


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As is common in many discourse analytic studies, findings and discussion are presented together in a single section. Tellers mobilize resources such as manipulating verb tenses, describing antagonists as depersonalized authority figures, and giving or withholding speaking roles to different characters. Finally, the tellers position themselves as dynamic agents, who can directly address, advise, and admonish the readers. In the narratives we examined, tellers differentially situated story antagonists in relation to their past selves on the one hand and current selves on the other hand.


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  7. When narrating about experiences as children, protagonist-selves were grammatically positioned as the object of the speech, acted upon by antagonists in positions of authority. For instance, in Example 1, Lynn 29 recounted their experience as a child when they were told to stop stimming:. For example, as a kid, my family would make me sit on my hands, or make me restrain my body in other ways to stop from stimming. Similar examples abound in our data set; in Example 2, Rose 13 described their past experience on stage for a choral performance, during which they were scolded by the choral director for rocking and flapping:.

    In Example 3, Jo recounts an incident as a child when her mother saw her jumping and flapping at a shopping center:. She pulled me aside, and in frightened tones, told me that I shouldn't flap my hands. Only infants did that, she said, and people who were mentally retarded … In ninth grade Geometry, one exasperated girl threw peanuts at me until I shut up.

    The characterization of antagonists and their behaviors toward the tellers references dominant ideologies that permit autistic children to be treated as passive recipients of actions upon them. The story antagonists hold authority to verbally and sometimes physically suppress the narrators' stimming in public spaces. In contrast, several narratives end with the narrator's current resistant self, such as Lynn's 29 illustration of their transformed positioning as an older self who is directing their own activities as they reintroduce their stimming as empowering and natural:.

    As I began to realize that I was Autistic … it became empowering for me to stim … I'm so much better able to deal with my outside world and environment in large part because I feel much more free to express my feelings and regulate my emotions. Through the use of different verb forms and tenses across recollections set in the past and present, Lynn illustrated a changed identity from a passive participant who is being told to stop stimming into an active agent with newfound power and an ability to comport themselves how they please.

    Narrators regularly portrayed antagonists as generalized authority figures who are older than the past self of the teller. For example, Bascom 14 recounted her childhood experience when she was physically forced to stop stimming:. When I was six years old, people who were much bigger than me with loud echoing voices held my hands down in textures that hurt worse than my broken wrist while I cried and begged and pleaded and screamed.

    In Example 6, Jo uses general membership categories to refer to individuals who rejected to her stimming:. Except for instances when the tellers are talking about their mothers, the antagonists are referred to as their profession or position in a society such as teachers or a choral director, rather than being nominated with a specific name. Sometimes, portions of the narrative are written in the passive voice, so that the narrators are positioned as subjects of an unnamed actor.

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    Similarly, in online narratives of childhood stimming, antagonists who attempt to suppress stimming are positioned as a generalized authority or sometimes as an institution rather than specific identifiable individuals. This imprecise portrayal of the antagonist references the nonautistic ideal endorsed by the dominant and nonautistic society, and pervasive social norms that are extensions of the story antagonist.

    Along these same lines, while the tellers rarely give themselves a speaking role within the narratives in past-self narratives, they often give other characters voices through quoted sentences or words. This served to represent ideologies about what is acceptable, and position these as against their own character-self. In Example 2, after describing their humiliation at hearing the words of the choral director, the teller assumes their present perspective as narrator to reject the viewpoint imposed upon them as a child by rhetorically questioning why they should have to live up to neurotypical standards.

    In Example 3, the teller uses her mother's voice to present an ideology that jumping and flapping in public is acceptable only when practiced by infants or mentally retarded people. Then, the teller as her present self evaluates the experience, not as a character of the narrative but as a teller noting that this incident was an exception to her mother's otherwise respectful treatment.

    It's the equivalent to duct taping an NT person's mouth shut … You are taking away our natural language. You make interacting with the world that much harder. Similarly, in Example 8, Hillary 16 ended the narrative about a nonautistic stranger who grabbed their flapping hands by giving straightforward instructions to the audience:. It shouldn't be shocking and strange for me to use my body the way it comes naturally to me to do.

    Situating the reader in this way expresses a negative evaluation of a state of affairs and works to persuade the reader that change is needed. According to Goffman's theory of participation frameworks, 33 a teller assigns participation status to each member of a social gathering. Participation status is assigned not only to the ratified recipients of talk to whom the speaker directs his visual attention but also to unaddressed overhearing bystanders. Goffman 33 described specific scenarios such as radio or TV broadcasts, where the speaker addresses an imagined recipient. Because the nature of a blog post prompts readers to respond to and interact with the blogger, the tellers often communicate with an expectation of a response from a reader even if they are not explicitly calling on the readers.

    Therefore, tellers are always situating their past and current characters and their actual selves in relation to the readers, and the narratives are in fact addressing imagined unratified readers. Often, calling out the audience changes the participation status of the readers from overhearing bystanders to ratified recipients of the tellers' talk. By changing the participation framework of the audience in this way, the tellers are able to direct their message more specifically to a nonautistic actual audience. This works to hold actual readers accountable for the oppressive consequences of upholding normative standards of conduct that prohibit stimming.

    In addition to expressing transformed and empowered individual identities, the blog posts we examined worked to connect the autistic community and amplify their collective voices, culminating in a sustained resource through which collective identities can continue to be built. In this section, we show how the online spaces function as identity artifacts and how they serve as a forum to connect aligned perspectives about the experience of being autistic and the nature of autism.

    Once a blogger posts their narrative online, these postings occupy digital space that is accessible to anyone with an unrestricted internet connection.

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    Given their relative stability compared with, e. Blog spaces include a forum for readers to add commentary, which then become additional identity artifacts. These new artifacts have the capability to strengthen or weaken the previously constructed artifactual wholes. Blog posts can therefore create a space for continuous collaborative identity work, and within these spaces, both individual and collective identities can be constructed. On Bascom's blog post, commenters thanked Bascom for her contribution and reported back on their own experiences.

    Each comment then reshaped the artifactual whole, validating Bascom's experience and contributing to her identity as an advocate. In this way, the original blog post, the comments it elicited, and Bascom's follow-up posts created a web of resources that stabilized Bascom's and the larger community's autistic identities. For example, Bascom 35 acknowledged on her blog that 2 months following her first blog post, the viral responses she received from the autistic community influenced her sense of self:.

    Bascom asserted that narrating a past story as a blog post and engaging with the responses of the largely autistic audience enabled her to locate herself along a temporal dimension.


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    This process of gathering events into a coherent and meaningful order and reevaluating the meaning of past experiences with respondents allows autistic bloggers to negotiate new identities as autistic self-advocates. In addition, Bascom 35 acknowledged that reading the comments helped her adjust to initially overwhelming and bewildering attention.

    The same principle of artifactual wholes operates in interaction between the audience and Maxfield Sparrow, a blogger who introduces themselves as an autistic advocate. A mother of an autistic child wrote a blog post on her own blog, saying how Sparrow's stimming narrative changed her perception of her daughter and influenced her decision not to discourage her daughter from stimming.

    To this blog post, Sparrow 36 left the following comment:. I'm actually a VERY private person, though one might not realize it from my writing. You are the answer … I write for Evie and for all the countless Evies out there. In this way, their original stimming narratives, the response of Evie's mother, and Sparrow's contingent comments on the parent's blog post form artifactual wholes through which Sparrow becomes an outspoken autistic advocate.

    Identity artifacts may also serve as identity resources for the wider autistic advocacy community who are free to comment on the post. I'm nervous and a little scared but also very excited to finally learn why I am the way I am!!

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    This collective identity then helps the commenter explore her own identity as an autistic person. Koller 24 argued that ideologies shared by people who identify as members of a group may serve as mechanisms for the development of a collective identity. In the blog posts we examined, the bloggers and commenters frequently referenced and endorsed each other's experiences and claims, creating a sense of ideological alignment within the autistic community. When I was fifteen, I stopped being alone. The frequent and affirmative referencing of each other's blog posts indexes shared experiences, ideological alignment, and subsequently contributes to a collective autistic perspective reached through consensus among the participants.

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    It also reflects the efforts of autistic bloggers to distance themselves from, and protest against, dominant clinical discourses. Autism Wiki is a website where autistic individuals share their stories and helpful information for each other. Instances in which a word was previously applied pejoratively to a minority community, and was then reclaimed as a form of resistance against oppressive social norms, can be found in the discourse of other minority groups.