To label or not to label: the effect of labels on person perception of autistic adults

Lindsay E. Ryan, The College of Wooster


According to the recent data by the CDC, the number of individuals in the United States diagnosed with Autism is growing. This population is entering the public eye due to a push for inclusion in schools and the workplace. With this transition into inclusion, however, comes barriers of stigma and discrimination. These negative attitudes may or may not be perpetuated by the explicit labeling of Autism. To investigate whether labels have a significant effect, 112 participants were asked to read a scenario involving two Autistic adults., one high functioning and one low functioning. In one condition, the label of Autistic was stated in the scenario while in the other condition, the label was absent. To test differences in perceptions, a 2-way analysis of variance was performed. Results indicate that the label of "Autistic" has a significant negative effect on person perception in terms of prejudice, skills, and inclusion. In addition, higher functioning Autistic adults are less discriminated against compared to lower functioning Autistic adults.