Perceptual Control Theory and the Phenomenological Analysis of the Experience of Autism: A Case Study

  •  Jason Brown    
  •  Timothy Carey    


Autism is defined as a developmental disorder that is often characterized by deficits in a broad range of social
functioning. The present qualitative study attempts to begin to understand the subjective and functional nature of
these apparent deficits in one boy diagnosed with autism. Using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis and the
framework of Perceptual Control Theory the child’s behaviours were considered to be attempts to control his
perceptual experience of his environment. Understanding autistic behaviour in this way might allow for a greater
understanding of the capabilities of a child with autism rather than focusing on deficits. Stimulation, certainty,
and self-interest were identified as possible perceptual themes controlled by the participant. The implications of
these findings are discussed in reference to current literature.

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