Journal of Critical Issues in Educational Practice


diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome, deficit discourse, discourse analysis, positioning theory, totalizing language, normalizing judgment


Many researchers and practitioners refer to diagnoses of mental disorders in their work. While possibly suggesting helpful perspectives, this practice has also been criticized. A previous study suggests that such references produce a deficit discourse that enfeebles clients. However, some Japanese who are diagnosed with developmental disorders state that their diagnoses help them to assert themselves. What, then, does the diagnosis mean to the client? To examine this question, I studied from a discursive perspective the case of a Japanese client diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, using Rom Harré’s positioning theory. In analyzing the data, four positions (deficit, competent, abnormal, and normal) were found. The diagnosis influenced the client and those around him to engage in a deficit discourse, featuring identification of the person with the diagnosis (totalizing language) and normalizing judgments. These results suggest that Asperger’s syndrome could function as a double-edged sword that both gives the client the right to assert himself and forces him to accept that he has a deficit or is abnormal. This can be called an Asperger’s-syndrome position. I recommend non-normative practices proposed previously, to neither deny nor normalize the diagnosis.

Author Statement

Dr. Hatsuho Ayashiro is a lecturer in the College of Human Studies at Komazawa Women's University and a certified clinical psychologist in Japan. He was a visiting scholar at California State University, San Bernardino from June 2014 to February 2015.