Autism Spectrum Disorder in Popular Media: Storied Reflections of Societal ViewsReport as inadecuate

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Brock Education: A Journal of Educational Research and Practice, v23 n2 p97-115 Spr 2014

This article explores how storied representations of characters with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are typified in a world that is increasingly influenced by popular media. Twenty commercially published children's picture books, popular novels, mainstream television programs, and popular movies from 2006-2012 were selected using purposive, maximum variation sampling and analyzed through Krippendorff's six-step approach to social content analysis. From this 20-unit sample, results show that television characters with ASD tend to be portrayed as intellectually stimulating geniuses who make us aspire to be like them; movies tend to show those with ASD as heroes, conquering seemingly impossible odds; novels tend to present ASD in a complex, authentic context of family and community, rife with everyday problems; picture books appear to be moving towards a clinical presentation of ASD. Common cross-categorical themes portray scientific, clinical, and/or savant-like traits that tend to glamourize challenges inherent to ASD.

Descriptors: Pervasive Developmental Disorders, Social Attitudes, Mass Media, Mass Media Effects, Television, Childrens Literature, Picture Books, Novels, Films, Popular Culture, Content Analysis, Literary Devices, Stereotypes

Brock University Faculty of Educatino. 500 Glenridge Avenue, Saint Catharines, ON, L2S 3A1 Canada. Tel: 905-688-5550 ext. 3733; e-mail: brocked[at]; Web site:

Author: Belcher, Christina; Maich, Kimberly


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