First Advisor

Amy Donaldson

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Speech and Hearing Sciences and University Honors


Speech and Hearing Sciences




People with disabilities in mass media, Autism on television, Stereotypes (Social psychology)




Little research has been done on how these characters affect perception and understanding of individuals on the autism spectrum and whether these characters are accurate portrayals of autism. The purpose of this study is to examine the connection between an individual’s relationship with the autistic community and their knowledge of autism, and how that relationship might influence their perception of authentic autistic representation in television. This survey was aimed at individuals on the autism spectrum (e.g., autistic, Asperger, neurodivergent), professionals and students who work with the autism community, family and friends of the individuals in the autism community, and individuals with no relationship to the autism community. An important finding is that the majority of respondents believed that most autistic individuals have special talents or abilities, and that the stereotype perpetuated the most was high intelligence. Little difference in understanding of autism and perception of authentic autistic characteristics was shown between those with no relationship to the autism community, and those that do. This data can be interpreted in two ways: autistic representation in television is authentic enough that those with no relationship with the autistic community can learn effectively about the disorder, or, those who do have a relationship with the autistic community are as misinformed about the characteristics of autism as those with no relation to the autistic community.


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