Getting dressed as a social activity

The interactional competence of an Autistic teenager who doesn’t use speech


  • Erika Prado University of Chicago
  • Mary Bucholtz University of California



Autism, collaboration, embodiment, routine activity, sociality


Up to 25 per cent of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder are classified as ‘nonverbal’. Building on interactional research on the communicative skills of Autistic children and of individuals who do not use speech, this article uses video data to examine the interactional competence of an Autistic bilingual Latino teenager who does not use speech to communicate. A comparison of multiple instances of the teenager’s getting-dressed routine shows that contrary to the clinical framing of this routine as individualized and efficiency-oriented, getting dressed can be a social achievement that relies on the collaboration of multiple social actors in community settings. While a core feature of an Autism diagnosis is social and communicative impairment, the analysis demonstrates that Autistic interaction is highly social and richly communicative as well as affectively engaged.

Author Biographies

Erika Prado, University of Chicago

Erika Prado is a PhD student, National Science Foundation Fellow and Ford Foundation Fellow in the Department of Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago. She graduated with honours with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a minor in Sociocultural Linguistics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she was a McNair Scholar. She is a linguistic anthropologist who conducts research on language, interaction and autism in the Latinx community.

Mary Bucholtz, University of California

Mary Bucholtz is professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and director of the Center for California Languages and Cultures. She is a linguistic anthropologist whose current research focuses on the linguistic and interactional dimensions of identity and expertise among Latinx youth. Her most recent book is Feeling It: Language, Youth, and Affect in Latinx Youth Learning (co-edited with Dolores Inés Casillas and Jin Sook Lee, Routledge, 2018).


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How to Cite

Prado, E. ., & Bucholtz, M. . (2021). Getting dressed as a social activity: The interactional competence of an Autistic teenager who doesn’t use speech. Research on Children and Social Interaction, 5(2), 239–270.