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Autism and media

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A social research paper on autism portrayal in the media for a class assignment.

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Autism and media

  1. 1. Running Head: AUTISM AND MEDIA 1 Gender and Autism Portrayal in the Media Sarah Orr SOC 3070-001 December 13 2016
  2. 2. AUTISM AND MEDIA 2 Abstract In this research, the portrayal of autism in the media is analyzed. This paper examines findings from various researchers who analyzed autism portrayal in various media platforms. From the literature review, online survey, interviews, and content analysis, it is suggested that there is little information on how autism is portrayed, and that many portrayals are stereotypical. The research aims to raise awareness of these issues in the hopes of portraying more accepting messages about people with autism and other disabilities in society. It is proposed that the portrayal of autism and other disabilities in the media should be further studied.
  3. 3. AUTISM AND MEDIA 3 Gender and Autism Portrayal in the Media The research topic is the portrayal of autism in the media. More specifically, it involves whether men or women might see autism portrayals in the media more or less frequently than the other and how they perceive those portrayals. The research question is: “How do men and women feel about how autism is portrayed on television, in films, literature, and newspapers?” In order to answer this question, one must look into social research and sociology. Sociology is interesting because it attempts to explain why people act the way they do, and the underlying social forces that shape society. One aspect of sociology and social research is the inclusion or rejection of certain people, specifically individuals with autism. This topic is important because there is little information on autism portrayal in the media and how it can impact how society views people with autism. The ways that people with autism are portrayed in the media and how people without autism perceive those messages can help raise awareness of autism and encourage people to be more inclusive of those who are different. By answering how men and women might perceive autism, more awareness of how society perceives autism can be gained, as well as diverse ideas from individuals with autism that could help benefit society. Literature Review Autism Spectrum Disorder has gradually been on the rise, according to Fraiser-Robinson. It was estimated in 2010 that 1 in 68 children were affected by autism spectrum disorder (Fraiser-Robinson, 113). Autism is defined by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as “a series of developmental disabilities characterized by the existence of repetitive behaviors or activities, such as rocking movements, hand clapping or obsessively arranging personal belongings” (113). Along with the rise of autism rates, there has also been a prevalence of portrayals of autism stereotypes in the
  4. 4. AUTISM AND MEDIA 4 media. The literature review will discuss the ways autism has been portrayed in television, film, newspapers, and literature. Autism in Television Autism has been portrayed in television in a variety of ways. In one study, Kang (2015) analyzed TV frames using frequency analysis (Kang, 250). The study found that child, cause, and personal story were the top three issues identified in network TV news (Kang, 245). In other words, issues about children with autism, possible causes of autism, and personal stories were presented most frequently. Kang also found that the personal (episodic) responsibility frame outnumbered the social (thematic) one (245). Individual responsibility focuses on the origin of a problem (in this case, autism) and social responsibility focuses on the people who have the power to control the problem (Kang, 248). The news focused more on the origins of autism, rather than how people in society could find ways to benefit the autism community. Kang concluded that surveying the audience, and news about autism would provide information on how autism is perceived by the public. The results could also improve understanding of autism over time (Kang, 257). Another study by Acosta-Alzuru (2013) analyzed a television protagonist, Micaela, who had Asperger syndrome. Her goal was to examine “the tensions of creating/consuming a protagonist intended to deliver a message of nonexclusion, who is bound by the telenovela genre’s codes and the strains between television’s commercial and social responsibility facets” (Acosta-Alzuru 125). For the study, she interviewed actors, audience members and the writers, she did participant observation and textual analysis (Acosta-Alzuru, 126). She found that it was hard to find actors to accurately portray Micaela, and although the show helped deliver an accepting message regarding individuals with autism, more work needs to be done in raising
  5. 5. AUTISM AND MEDIA 5 awareness of autism. The fact that it was hard to find actors with autism to portray Micaela, reflects a dominant neurotypical (non-autistic) culture in society, with little understanding of autism in general. She also mentions that society has a great opportunity to talk more about autism and “listening to those with autism has never been a more available option, and it is one that those who are in the business of making cultural representations of the condition need to take up” (Acosta-Alzuru, 126). In other words, autism needs to be brought to the surface in the media and people with autism need to have their voices heard. This study contradicts Kang (2013) who focused on stories in the news instead of a TV show. Unlike Acosta-Alzuru (2013), Kang analyzed how individuals with autism were portrayed realistically in the news, when medical diagnoses were used to portray them. Autism in Film and Video Aside from the stereotypical “mathematical geek” portrayal of autism in Rain Man, other films present autism in various ways. Holton (2013) analyzed the film Parenthood and the autistic character Max. Holton found that the film did not focus on Max’s experiences, instead the episodes “emphasize his behavior associated with Asperger’s Syndrome, and others’ reactions to him” (Holton, 2013). The approach placed more importance on his diagnosis of autism and not on his feelings. Avoiding the portrayal of the feelings of individuals with autism in the media can result in the isolation, and dehumanization of individuals with autism in the real world. When this portrayal is “disseminated to a large enough audience, can create an illusory image of disability based on cultural expectations that alienate disability and disabled individuals” (Holton qt. Drake, 2010; Thomson 1996, 1997). Broderick (2010) claims that the media portrays autism in this way because popular culture creates images of autism by
  6. 6. AUTISM AND MEDIA 6 “employing representations of the diagnosis as a disease necessitating preventions, treatments, and a cure” (Holton qt. Broderick, 2013). One of the explanations for these portrayals is Erving Goffman’s theory of social stigma (1963). Goffman viewed stigma as behaviors or reputations that are seen as harmful in society. This causes an individual to be mentally classified by others using harmful stereotypes, rather than being accepted as ”normal.” In this case, stigmas of autism are often portrayed in the media. The study on Parenthood is similar to Hanley (2014), who analyzed articles about autism research and treatments. Both studies analyzed media that focused on the impacts of autism, and ignored the personal experiences of autistic individuals. Unlike Kang (2015), this study focused more on the societal perspective of autism instead of a familial viewpoint. Holton found that the autism portrayal focused on “isolation and fear, with more emphasis on familial and societal concern than individual perspectives” (Holton 2013). Reactions from society are given importance, while individuals with autism are ignored. Aside from the focus on the condition of autism over the individual, autism portrayal in other videos can be beneficial. In Orta (2016), a survey was used to determine how perceptions of autism changed after teens watched a video clip. One hundred thirty high school students were sampled for the research and it was a 2-group quantitative, experimental design to determine whether observational learning could impact a change in how teens viewed other teens with Aspergers (Orta, 49). After watching the videos, the teens took the ADTP attitude survey. The findings showed that the teens who watched the video clip of teens with autism had more positive attitude scores than the teens who did not. In terms of the context, the videos served as an educational tool for the teens to learn about the experience of individuals with autism. Murray (2006) states that “accurate representations of ASD can affect how teens perceive, accept, and interact with
  7. 7. AUTISM AND MEDIA 7 peers with ASD” (Orta qt. Murray 2016). This is a manifestation of the social leaning theory, which states that people learn about the world around them by watching other people’s behavior (N.E. Miller and J. Dollard, 1941). Furthermore, Orta (2016) claims that the media can help promote positive attitudes toward people with ASD and reduce negative stereotypes. This would also lead to more opportunities for teens with ASD to learn social behavior (Orta, 2013). Similar to Holton’s research, Orta (2016) involved using the media to portray autism in a certain way, in an attempt to change the perspectives of the audience. Orta used the media to portray individuals with autism in accepting ways, similar to Acosta-Alzuru (2013) who created a protagonist with autism for a television show. These studies suggest that awareness of autism is increasing, but there is little attention on individual struggles and experience with autism. Autism in Newspapers Autism has been mentioned in newspapers and the news. In one study, McKeever (2013) used a content analysis when reviewing articles about autism from 1996 and 2006 in The New York Times and The Washington Post. The findings revealed that “the human frame was most prevalent, followed by the policy frame, followed by the science frame” (McKeever, 2013). The science frames decreased over time, while the policy frames increased. He also found that the government, people in the medical field, families, and nonprofit organizations were the most common sources (McKeever, 2013). This suggests that over time, there was less focus on biology and quantitative data and more focus on personal experiences of individuals with autism. This was similar to Kang (2013) study, when he found that personal stories about autism were common in television news. The focus on personal experiences of autism and an increase in
  8. 8. AUTISM AND MEDIA 8 acceptance, were also shown in Orta (2016) and Acosta-Alzuru (2013). On the flip side, other reports have portrayed autism in stereotypical ways. Tang and Bie (2016) analyzed Chinese newspapers that presented autism in a certain way. The newspapers analyzed stigmas and ages of people with autism. The findings showed that the reportage of autism increased over time, but the presentation was often biased (Tang & Bie, 2016). In other words, autism was portrayed in narrow stereotypical ways. The most common stereotypes portrayed individuals with autism as savants, children, or parents (Tang & Bie, 2016). Tang and Bie (2016) contrasted with Orta (2016). Orta (2016) claimed that the media can be used to positively portray autism and help people understand individuals on the spectrum. For example, in the study, the videos showed groups of individuals with autism discussing friendships and relationships using communication strategies different from mainstream communication (Orta, 2016). Tang and Bie (2016), on the other hand, demonstrated that there are negative stereotypes of autism that need to be addressed, as shown in the Chinese newspaper study when the individuals with autism were labeled as children, savants, and other limiting roles. Furthermore, McKeever (2013) and Tang and Bie (2016) all suggest that more research needs to be done to help media officials and journalists better understand autism and how to accurately portray it (McKeever 2013, Tang & Bie, 2016). These portrayals tie to the agenda- setting theory, which explains that if a topic is presented frequently in the news, people will perceive it as more important. (Max McCombs & Donald Shaw, 1968). In relation to the studies, if autism is portrayed in stereotypical ways more frequently like Tang and Bie (2016), in an accepting way like Orta (2016) or in a neutral medical perspective (Kang 2015), then the audience will likely believe the messages more over time. Autism in Literature and Magazines
  9. 9. AUTISM AND MEDIA 9 Hanley (2014) examined autism in literature from 1970 to 2013. Hanley (2014) found that the most common themes in the articles focused on autism research, treatments, and other quantitative information. The articles portrayed autism in a scientific way and ignored the personal experiences of individuals with autism. Hanley (2014) contrasted with McKeever (2013) who claimed that there was less focus on the scientific aspect of autism and more focus on personal experiences of individuals with autism on the news. Hanley (2014) suggests that other texts need to be analyzed critically and that autistic people need to be further supported. In contrast to this study, there are other magazines that have focused on more in-depth aspects of autism. Bertilsdotter, Brownlow, and O’Dell (2015) studied how magazines portray autism. More specifically, they analyzed articles written for Empowerment, a Swedish advocacy magazine (219). Bertilsdotter et. al (2015) suggested that both the parental view of autism and the dominating medical view have portrayed children with autism as problematic (throwing tantrums, being socially isolated from their peers etc.) and the negative construction of autism by the medical community is automatically accepted (Bertilsdotter qt. Farrugia, 2009; Goin-Kochel & Myers, 2005; Gray, 1994; Orsini, 2009; Orsini & Smith 2010). The parental view was generally more accepting of autism, whereas the medical view focused on the flaws of the disorder. This study relates to the quantitative findings in Hanley (2014). Both studies focus on autism being portrayed in terms of the flaws and the conditions of the disorder. However, in the Swedish magazine, autism is portrayed in an accepting, empowering way. Normalization, de- institutionalization, and inclusion have helped change the lives of people with developmental disabilities (Lovgren, 2013) and Empowerment is a reflection of that ideology.
  10. 10. AUTISM AND MEDIA 10 In terms of the methodologies, thirty articles of Empowerment were published between 2002 and 2009. (Bertilsdotter et. al 223). Individuals without autism (also called neuro-typical) and those with autism came together at a summer camp to have fun and interact with each other (Bertilsdotte et. al 223). The results showed that there were two types of discussions that were portrayed in the magazine: the reformist and the separatist (Bertilsdotter et. al 229). The reformist view emphasizes on bringing individuals with and without autism together and including autistic individuals in organizations. The summer camp experience was a reflection of the reformist view. In contrast, the separatist view focuses on autistic individuals having space to share their experiences, while excluding those without autism. Bertilsdotter et. al (2015) conclude that this division was shown in Empowerment and that the voices of autistic individuals are not being heard as a result of a neuro-typical dominated society (230). Methodology For the quantitative and the qualitative research, the question was: “How do men and women feel about how autism is portrayed on television, in films, literature, and newspapers?” The participants taking the surveys and talking in the interviews, were asked questions regarding how they thought autism was portrayed in various media platforms. The research question changed in the content analysis, when the focus was specifically on how autism was portrayed in songs on YouTube. The question was: “How is autism presented in the media that influences how men and women, respectively, perceive it?” In the quantitative research process, the sample consisted of thirty-one UCCS students. A survey was administered online through SurveyMonkey on November 3rd, and sent to classmates via Blackboard. Availability sampling and non-probability sampling were used due to time limitations. The sample size was originally going to be forty students, but was cut down, due to
  11. 11. AUTISM AND MEDIA 11 time constraints. This reduced sample size, skewed the results and reduced validity. The majority of the students who took the survey were white females, and this created a bias. In the qualitative research process, the sample size was six participants who participated in the interviews. After reviewing the consent forms, and asking demographic questions, the participants were asked questions involving what they thought about how autism was portrayed in the media. They were also asked what they thought the media and society should do to change the portrayals of autism in the media and how to encourage other people to become more aware of the issue. The sample size was also very small, like the sample size in the survey. The white female majority bias was also present in the interviews. In addition, some of the interviewees appeared distracted because of the environments they were in, (dorm rooms) or their moods at the time (tired in the evening). In the content analysis, a sample of ten songs on YouTube were analyzed. The items that were coded were the title, URL, and date of the songs, as well as key words that appeared a certain number of times in the lyrics. In addition, imagery, colors, the tones of the songs, the target audience, and the emotions they conveyed were also coded. The items were organized on a coding sheet and further analyzed. Like the survey and the interviews, the sample size was small, but still enough to get decent information. One of the issues was that one of the songs was hard to understand, because the songwriter was rapping too fast to adequately code. Other videos only displayed the lyrics on the screen, making it hard to code for imagery and emotion in the video. There were other things that were not coded for, such as the backgrounds of the artists, and the common stereotypes of autism. In the survey, some of the questions were “what is your gender?” and “what is your race?” for the demographic variables. The survey asked how many hours on average did the
  12. 12. AUTISM AND MEDIA 12 participants watch the news, TV, and been on social media. By asking questions, other variables were operationalized, such as familiarity with autism, perceptions of autism portrayal, stereotypes shown in the media, and whether they thought autism was portrayed in a positive, negative, or neutral way. For the survey, the independent variable was gender, and the dependent variable was the frequency of autistic traits shown in the media. The hypothesis was: men are more likely than women to view daily, stereotypical, portrayals of autism in the media. From the literature review, several studies were conducted to determine how autism was portrayed on TV, in the news, in film, and literature. Hanley (2014) and Holton (2013) found that autism was portrayed in a scientific way, with little regard for the personal experiences of the individuals with autism. On the other hand, Kang (2015), McKeever (2013), and Acosta-Alzuru (2013) found that autism was portrayed in accepting ways that focused more on the feelings of the individuals. Contrasting the previous two studies, Tang and Bie (2016) found that Chinese newspapers portrayed limiting autism stereotypes and labeled individuals with autism. These studies show that the type of message portrayed, as well as the demographics of the audience, can impact how society and the culture perceives individuals with autism, both in the media, and in real life. This is further supported with Goffman’s social stigma theory, and the agenda-setting theory. For the survey and the interviews, confidentiality had to be ensured and the questions were checked to determine that they did not pose emotional threat to the participants. Editing the questions and getting approval was time consuming, especially for administering the survey. To handle the issues, the consent form was shown at the beginning of the online surveys for the participants to look at. The interviewees were introduced to the consent form before the interviews began. Some of the questions may have been uncomfortable and personal for the
  13. 13. AUTISM AND MEDIA 13 participants to answer such as “How familiar are you with autism?” The interviewees may have felt uncomfortable when they knew that they were being observed and notes were being taken. They may have changed their answers/behavior, which would skew the results of the research. Conceptualizing and operationalizing the variables was difficult, because it was hard to figure out which variable to code for. It was time consuming editing the survey questions and making sure they fit with IRB guidelines. Coding in SPSS was tedious and took many hours to complete. Conducting the interviews required more time to find the interviewee, plan a time to meet, then ask all the questions. In the content analysis, some of the songs were hard to understand and code for. The sample size was limited in the survey, interviews, and content analysis. Non-probability sampling was used because there was no list of all the students at UCCS available. There was a white female majority bias in both the survey and the interviews. Findings A sample of thirty-one participants answered the questions in the survey. The majority of them were white females. The independent variable was gender, and the dependent variable was the frequency of autism portrayals in the media. It was hypothesized that men are more likely than women to view the stereotypical portrayal of autism in the media more often. For questions 3-5 that asked how often the participants watched the news, TV, or been on social media, 58.1% of the participants did not watch the news, 29% did not watch TV, and 32.3% spent 1 hour on social media. 41.9% of the sample of participants said they were somewhat familiar with autism, regarding the question that asked how familiar the participants were with autism. Furthermore, when the participants were asked how often they thought autism was portrayed in stereotypical ways in the media, 35.5% of participants said that the media often portrays autism in
  14. 14. AUTISM AND MEDIA 14 stereotypical ways, while another 35.5% said only sometimes. Only 19.4% said very often, and 9.7% said rarely. These statistics are shown in Table 1 below. Table 1 Crosstab What is your gender? TotalFemale Male Other On a scale of 1 to 5, how much do you think themedia influences perceptions of autism? A little Count 0 3 0 3 % within On a scale of 1 to 5, how much do you think the media influences perceptions of autism? 0.0% 100.0% 0.0% 100.0% % within What is your gender? 0.0% 30.0% 0.0% 9.7% % of Total 0.0% 9.7% 0.0% 9.7% Some Count 6 2 1 9 % within On a scale of 1 to 5, how much do you think the media influences perceptions of autism? 66.7% 22.2% 11.1% 100.0% % within What is your gender? 30.0% 20.0% 100.0% 29.0% % of Total 19.4% 6.5% 3.2% 29.0% Much Count 10 3 0 13 % within On a scale of 1 to 5, how much do you think the media influences perceptions of autism? 76.9% 23.1% 0.0% 100.0% % within What is your gender? 50.0% 30.0% 0.0% 41.9% % of Total 32.3% 9.7% 0.0% 41.9% A great deal Count 4 2 0 6 % within On a scale of 1 to 5, how much do you think the media influences perceptions of autism? 66.7% 33.3% 0.0% 100.0% % within What is your gender? 20.0% 20.0% 0.0% 19.4% % of Total 12.9% 6.5% 0.0% 19.4%
  15. 15. AUTISM AND MEDIA 15 Total Count 20 10 1 31 % within On a scale of 1 to 5, how much do you think the media influences perceptions of autism? 64.5% 32.3% 3.2% 100.0% % within What is your gender? 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% % of Total 64.5% 32.3% 3.2% 100.0% For the question that asked how often did they think the media focused on the fear of autism, 51.6% of the participants said that the media rarely focuses on the fear of autism. For the question that asked how often did the participants think that the media portrays individuals as scholars, 35.5% of the participants said that the media rarely portrays individuals with autism as scholars, vs 3.2% who said very often. For the question that asked how often did the participants think the media focuses on research and treatment of autism, 48.4% of the participants said that the media rarely focuses on research and treatment for autism, vs 3.2% who said very often. For the question that asked how often did the participants think that the media portrays individuals with autism as having no friends, around 38.7% of participants said that the media often portrays individuals with autism as having no friends vs 3.2% who said never, and 9.7% who said very often. For autism perception, 41.9% said that the media influences perceptions of autism often. In terms of gender, 64.5% of the participants were female, 32.3% were male and 3.2% identified as a different gender. Females said that spent a total of 20 hours on social media, compared to 10 hours for males. 1 female said 17 hours. The mean for how often they watched the news was .45, TV watching was 1.97 and social media was 2.84. Three males and three females said they were unfamiliar with autism, while only two males and two females said they were very familiar with autism. Nine females and four males said they were somewhat familiar with autism.
  16. 16. AUTISM AND MEDIA 16 For the question that asked how familiar the participants were with autism, 3 males and 3 females said they were unfamiliar with autism, while only 2 males and 2 females said they were very familiar with autism. 9 females and 4 males said they were somewhat familiar with autism. 8 females said that the media sometimes portrays autism in stereotypical ways, compared to 2 males. 7 females said often, compared to 4 males. 3 males and 3 females said very often. In terms of whether autism was seen as being portrayed in a positive, negative, or neutral manner, 11 females said negative, and 8 males said negative. 5 males and 5 females said neutral. None of the participants said that the media portrays autism in a positive way. For autism perception, 10 females said that the media influences perception of autism often, compared to 3 males. The crosstab of gender and the perception of stereotypical portrayals of autism is shown in Table 2. Table 2 Crosstab What is your gender? TotalFemale Male Other On a scale of 1 to 5, how often do you think autism is portrayed in stereotypicalways in the media? Rarely Count 2 1 0 3 % within On a scale of 1 to 5, how often do you think autism is portrayed in stereotypicalways in the media? 66.7% 33.3% 0.0% 100.0% % within What is your gender? 10.0% 10.0% 0.0% 9.7% % of Total 6.5% 3.2% 0.0% 9.7% Sometimes Count 8 2 1 11 % within On a scale of 1 to 5, how often do you think autism is portrayed in stereotypicalways in the media? 72.7% 18.2% 9.1% 100.0% % within What is your gender? 40.0% 20.0% 100.0% 35.5% % of Total 25.8% 6.5% 3.2% 35.5%
  17. 17. AUTISM AND MEDIA 17 Often Count 7 4 0 11 % within On a scale of 1 to 5, how often do you think autism is portrayed in stereotypicalways in the media? 63.6% 36.4% 0.0% 100.0% % within What is your gender? 35.0% 40.0% 0.0% 35.5% % of Total 22.6% 12.9% 0.0% 35.5% Very often Count 3 3 0 6 % within On a scale of 1 to 5, how often do you think autism is portrayed in stereotypicalways in the media? 50.0% 50.0% 0.0% 100.0% % within What is your gender? 15.0% 30.0% 0.0% 19.4% % of Total 9.7% 9.7% 0.0% 19.4% Total Count 20 10 1 31 % within On a scale of 1 to 5, how often do you think autism is portrayed in stereotypicalways in the media? 64.5% 32.3% 3.2% 100.0% % within What is your gender? 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% % of Total 64.5% 32.3% 3.2% 100.0% With the crosstab comparing gender and how many hours per day the participants spent on social media, the result was .002, indicating there was significance between the variables. The numbers in the other chi squares were greater than 0.05, thus there was no significance. This is shown in Table 3, comparing gender and the participants’ perceptions of how much the media influences perceptions of autism. The results are not significant, because .143 is greater than .005. Table 3 Chi-Square Tests
  18. 18. AUTISM AND MEDIA 18 Value df Asymptotic Significance (2- sided) Pearson Chi-Square 9.591a 6 .143 Likelihood Ratio 10.066 6 .122 Linear-by-Linear Association 1.394 1 .238 N of Valid Cases 31 a. 10 cells (83.3%) have expected count less than 5. The minimum expected count is .10. In the interviews that were conducted, such as the one with Emily, many of the interviewees had not been exposed to autism on social media and television. All of the people that were interviewed said that people with autism should be treated with respect like everyone else, and have the opportunity to share their stories. This results in two findings: 1. there is little awareness of how autism is portrayed in the media and 2. many people with autism (and other disabilities) are overlooked or ignored when it comes to them trying to share their stories. For example, Josh claimed that “many people are afraid of things they do not understand,” (ex. autism). This suggests that more work needs to be done in educating other people about the influence of stereotypes, the media, and the various obstacles that many people with autism struggle to overcome. The research question was: “How do men and women feel about how autism is portrayed on television, in films, literature, and newspapers?” Two males and four females were interviewed. Josh watched TV and the news frequently, while Patrick did not. Diana did not watch TV or get on social media often, Jasmine only occasionally, Emily used social media frequently and Bethany used social media around three hours a day. Based on these results, it is
  19. 19. AUTISM AND MEDIA 19 impossible to tell whether men or women are exposed to autism portrayal in the media more frequently. The participants expressed their views on autism portrayal in different ways. When asked about how he felt autism was portrayed in the media, Josh said that the media perpetuates negative stereotypes and “misrepresents people who have autism.” Patrick, on the other hand, said that he did not watch much media, and claimed that he was not exposed to autism portrayal in the media. Diana said that there was not enough portrayal of autism in the media other than the “extreme, ablest, and illogical” anti-vaccine posts she saw on Tumblr. Jasmine said that she did not pay much attention to the media. Emily said that there were a lack of portrayals, while Bethany said that autism was portrayed as a “bad” disorder to have. Based on the interviews with Josh, Diana, and Bethany, this suggests that some men and women claim that autism is portrayed in negative, stereotypical ways. Also, from other interviews with Jasmine and the other participants, some people claim that they have not been exposed to autism portrayal in the media. There is little difference on how men and women perceive autism portrayal due to a variety of responses from both genders. In addition, the survey results show that females were more likely than males to view autism portrayal in the media more often. This contradicts the hypothesis, which claimed that men would view autism portrayal more frequently. However, the number on the chi square was .148, which did not show significance. Therefore, it is impossible to tell whether men or women are exposed to autism more often than the other is. Like the interviews, the majority of participants in the survey were white females. This bias is likely a factor in the contradiction of the hypothesis. In fact, females spent 20 hours on social media compared to 10 hours for males in the survey. Many of the interviewees said that they did not know much about how autism is
  20. 20. AUTISM AND MEDIA 20 portrayed in the media. One of the results for the survey question supports this: out of 31 participants, 10 females and 6 males said they rarely saw the media focus on the fear of autism compared to the other participants. For another question, 9 females said they were only somewhat familiar with autism compared to 4 of the males. Both the survey and the interviews had an unequal gender bias, with females outnumbering males. The participants in both studies either claimed that the media portrays autism in negative stereotypical ways, or the participants had little knowledge of autism portrayal in the media. Based on the data gathered from the content analysis, the songs portrayed autism in many ways. First, some of the songs such as “We’ll Get By” and “When the Children Cry,” portrayed autism in sad ways. This was shown when the songwriter sang, “my autism is like a prison” twice, and the words “when the children cry” were mentioned several times in the second video. There was a black and white picture of a woman, presumably a mother, looking stressed in the second video. This would imply that autism is portrayed as a disorder that is stressful for parents of children with autism, and that people with autism are suffering from it. This is further supported in another song “I’m in Here” with the word “crying” being used five times and a statement that said that there was “no known cause and no cure. Yet!” These videos portrayed autism as a disorder that needs to be fixed. Second, autism was portrayed in more positive, hopeful ways in other songs. In “Don’t Give Up On Me”, there was a theme of loving, being nurtured, and being cared for. The images showed a mother hugging her autistic son. In “Reach For You,” the words “you are perfect” were mentioned twice, representing a mother telling her autistic child that he is amazing just the way he is. In “I’ll Never Give Up On You,” some of the words used in the description were “love,”
  21. 21. AUTISM AND MEDIA 21 “faith,” “patience,” and “determination.” These themes add a humanistic quality to autism and individuals with autism. Third, many of the songs encouraged the general audience to understand what people with autism go through. Scott James sang, “Imagine what it’s like to be me,” in “Through My Eyes.” “The Girl Inside” also reflects the theme of individuals with autism sharing their stories and their longing to be understood by society. This is also shown, when “I’m in here” was mentioned four times in the lyrics in video eight. In “So It Goes” the subtitles said that people with autism “want to make friends, share their talents, and work.” The main goals were to raise awareness for autism, and convince other people that individuals with autism are people who have feelings, like everyone else. Based on the survey, interviews, and content analysis, more information could be gathered about autism portrayal in the media. First, it was discovered that many people are not exposed to accurate portrayals of individuals with autism in the media. Jasmine mentioned in one of the interviews: “I haven’t paid much attention to the media.” When asked about stereotypes, she replied “stereotypes exist to make people different.” Other people who are only exposed to detrimental displays of autism in the media, would likely associate everyone with autism as having those stereotypical traits. Second, there is little portrayal of autism in an accepting, understanding way in the media. Diana explained that American society places social privilege on people without physical or mental disabilities, and oppresses people who have disabilities. She claimed that the stereotypical portrayals are used by “neurotypical people who have internalized stereotypes about autism.” These stereotypes appear on TV, in the news, on social media, and other media platforms; ranging from showing children with behavioral problems, to loners, to skilled geniuses. The stereotypes and social bias leads to misunderstanding of autism
  22. 22. AUTISM AND MEDIA 22 by many individuals. Next, based on the statistical evidence from the survey and the comments of autism portrayal from the participants, it is difficult to tell if or how men and women differ on their perceptions of autism portrayal. The responses from both the survey and the interview were diverse responses from men and women. Next, based on the content analysis, more information was gathered on how autism is portrayed in the media. First, autism is often portrayed as a disorder that needs to be treated, especially in children. These negative perceptions often relate to stereotypes of autism (children lost in their own worlds, being loners, behavioral problems, etc.) Previously, in the interviews, several of the participants said that they saw autism being portrayed in stereotypical ways in the media. Josh, for instance, said that the individuals with autism were portrayed as “neurotic” and “outcasts.” Similarly, in the survey, 51.6% of the participants said that the media portrays autism in a negative manner. The songs “When The Children Cry” and “We’ll Get By” are examples of autism negatively being portrayed as a disorder that needs to be cured. Conclusion It is suggested that there is little information on how autism is portrayed in the media, particularly if the audience is not exposed to autism in the media. This was demonstrated by some of the interviewees, as well as many survey participants not being familiar with autism portrayal. The research also suggests that many portrayals of autism are limiting and revolve around stereotypes of autism, as demonstrated by some of the songs in the content analysis. Based on the data from the survey, females were more likely than males to view autism portrayal in the media more often on a daily basis, thus contradicting the hypothesis. Since there were a variety of different opinions, as well as an unequal number of men and women in the survey and
  23. 23. AUTISM AND MEDIA 23 interviews, it is impossible to tell if or how men or women view autism in the media more often than the other. There were several limitations in the research. First, in the survey, for the question that asked if the media portrays autism in a positive, negative, or neutral manner, one participant did not provide an answer. There was no data provided for question 13 that asked the participants to explain their answers, because, the data was not numerical. Second, as the results were analyzed in SPSS, it was hard to figure out whether to tell if the number was significant or what chi square to use. The decimals between 0-1, the answers with dates, and the less than one hour answers were rounded to 0 in SPSS. This was done because it was an easier way to calculate the data. Third, this was an availability sample based on convenience and a non-probability sample. The research was based on judgement, rather than random assignment. Fourth, the sample size was thirty-one and it was too small to make adequate conclusions. Originally, the sample size was forty students, but the size was reduced due to time constraints. Furthermore, the majority of the survey participants were white and female, a likely factor in the contradiction of the hypothesis. There are several limitations to the interviews. First, there was an unequal bias of men and women that were interviewed; the majority were white women. Second, the sample of six interviews was too small to make adequate conclusions. Third, unlike the survey, the interviews cannot be repeated again to get the same results. Fourth, many of the interviewees said that they had not been exposed to autism portrayal in the media frequently. In addition, some of them appeared to be distracted or tired during the interviews. Finally, a non-probability sample was used, based on judgement rather than random selection in the ideal research process. This was done because there was limited time to complete the project. Missing data, a small sample, an unequal bias of gender, and a non-probability sample are the main limitations of the research.
  24. 24. AUTISM AND MEDIA 24 The content analysis had several limitations. First, the sample size of ten was too small to make adequate conclusions. Second, there were several items that were not coded for, such as the backgrounds of the artist, common stereotypes of autism, etc. The stereotypes were not coded for because the focus was on the imagery and emotions of the songs. It was hard to code for certain stereotypes because they were not explicitly shown in the videos. Next, the research is not valid in that there are no statistics or facts to support the research. The research process is not reliable, because it cannot be repeated again to get the same results for the qualitative perspectives. Furthermore, it was hard to understand some of the lyrics in a couple of the songs; therefore, the song could not be analyzed adequately. Some of the videos only had the lyrics shown, and did not show video clips of people. This was an issue because the imagery and the emotions of the song could not be coded. It is recommended that more research should be conducted not only on the portrayals of autism in the media, but also on the aspects that influence perceptions of other disabilities. Focusing more on social media in the literature review, explaining the stereotypes of autism, and exploring other demographics such as age and socioeconomic status would contribute to further research. It is also recommended that experimentation of the impacts of portrayals of autism in the media, be conducted. Expanding this research could lead to awareness of people with physical, mental, and psychological disorders. Greater acceptance of individuals with disabilities would create a better society. Perhaps perceptions of people with disabilities will take a positive turn in the future.
  25. 25. AUTISM AND MEDIA 25 Addendum Overall, this research project was a great learning experience. It was great to experience the process of making a survey, interviewing UCCS students, and analyzing songs. This project showed that a great amount of information could be gained from various methods, even if it is hard to classify at times. The main strengths were the diversity of methods used: quantitative, qualitative, and content analysis. This allowed for statistics and the personal experiences of the participants to support the research. It was enjoyable to learn how different people perceived the portrayals of autism in the research methods. The interviews provided the most in-depth information to answer the hypothesis and research questions. However, there were several weaknesses in the research. The limitations were small sample sizes in all three methods used and a non-probability sample. The participants in the survey and the interviews were mostly white females. Although the survey, interviews, and the content analysis were fun to do, starting the process, coding, and editing took a long time to do. The literature review was also tedious to do. If there were more time to do the research, more surveys would have been administered to have a larger sample size. The interviews would have had a larger sample size outside of UCCS, as well as a more diverse population of participants would be interviewed. There also would have been more time to double check the coding from SPSS. If it came to doing this project again, the topic would likely stay the same, except go into more depth on the stereotypes. Experimentation on media portrayals would also be a method to look into, with approval from the IRB and the resources available to use. Other media platforms would be investigated, like blogs, websites, books, and other forms of media. What are other ways that social research is conducted? How can social research be used for careers in social work and counseling?
  26. 26. AUTISM AND MEDIA 26 References Acosta-Alzuru, C. (2013). Dear micaela: Studying a telenovela protagonist with asperger's syndrome. Cultural Studies - Critical Methodologies, 13(2), 125-137. doi:http://dx.doi.org.libproxy.uccs.edu/10.1177/1532708612471305 American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed. (Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 2013), 31. Bertilsdotter Rosqvist, H., Brownlow, C., & O’Dell, L. (2015). ‘Am association for all’-notions of the meaning of autistic self-advocacy politics within a parent-dominated autistic movement. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 25(3), 219-231. doi:http://dx.doi.org.libproxy.uccs.edu/10.1002/casp.2210 Broderick, A. (2010). Autism as enemy (abductor, epidemic). In Z. Leonardo (Ed.), Handbook of cultural politics and education (pp. 237-268). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers. Drake, P. (2010). No life anyway: Pathologizing disability on film. In S. Chivers & N. Markotic (Eds.), The problem body: Projecting disability on film (pp. 98-107). Columbus: Ohio State University Press. Farrugia, D. (2009). Exploring stigma: medical knowledge and the stigmatization of parents and children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Sociology of Health and Illness, 31, 1011-1027. Frasier-Robinson, M. (2015). Autism spectrum disorder: a guide to the latest resources. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 55(2), 113-117.
  27. 27. AUTISM AND MEDIA 27 http://libproxy.uccs.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.libproxy.uccs.edu/docview/175 3222047?accountid=25388 Goffman, E. (1963). Stigma: notes on the management of spoiled identity. New York: Prentice-Hall. Goin-Kochel, R. P. & Myers, B. J. (2005). Congenital Versus Regressive Onset of Autism Spectrum Disorders: Parents’ Beliefs About Causes, Focus On Autism And Other Developmental Disabilities, 20, 169-179. Gray, D. E. (1994) Lay conceptions of autism: Parents’ explanatory models. Medical Anthropology: Cross-Cultural studies in Health and Illness, 16, 99-118. Hanley, J. L. (2014). Representations of autism in the social work literature from 1970 to 2013: A critical content analysis (Order No. 3672865). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (1651954432). Retrieved from http://libproxy.uccs.edu./login?url=http://search.proquest.com.libproxy.uccs.edu/docview /1651954432?accountid=25388 Holton, A. E. (2013). What’s wrong with max? parenthood and the portrayal of autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Communication Inquiry, 37(1), 45-63. doi:http://dx.doi.org.libproxy.uccs.edu/10.1177/0196859912472507 Kang, S. (2013). Coverage of autism spectrum disorder in the US television news: An analysis of framing. Disability and Society, 28(2), 245-259. doi:http://dx.doi.org.libproxy.uccs.edu/10.1080/09687599.2012.705056 Lovgren, V. (2013) [Conditional Adulthood: Lived experience of intellectual disability, age and gender]. [Ph.D. thesis in Social Work, Umea University, published by Umea University]
  28. 28. AUTISM AND MEDIA 28 McCombs, M.E., & Shaw, D.L. (1972). The Agenda-Setting Function of Mass Media. Public Opinion Quarterly, 36 (Summer), 176-187. McKeever, B. W. (2013). News framing of autism: Understanding media advocacy and the combating autism act. Science Communication, 35(2), 213-240. doi:http://dx.doi.org.libproxy.uccs.edu/10.1177/1075547012450951 Miller, N.E. & Dollard, J. (1941). Social Learning and Imitation. New Haven: Yale University Press. Orsini, M. (2009). Contesting the Autistic Subject: Biological Citizenship and the Autism/Autistic Movement. In S. J. Murray & D. Holmes (eds.). Critical Interventions in the Ethics of healthcare. Challenging the principle of autonomy in bioethics. 115-130. Ashgate: Farnham. Orsini, M. & Smith, M. (2010). Social movements, knowledge and public policy: the case of autism activism in Canada and the US. Critical Policy Studies, 4, 38-57. Orta, S. (2016). Affecting teen attitudes through positive media portrayals of teens with autism spectrum disorder (Order No. 10004177). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (1759634885). 1-81. Retrieved from http://libproxy.uccs.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.libproxy.uccs.edu/docview/175 9634885?accountid=25388 Tang, L., & Bie, B. (2016). The stigma of autism in china: An analysis of newspaper portrayals of autism between 2003 and 2012. Health Communication, 31(4), 445-452. doi:http://dx.doi.org.libproxy.uccs.edu/10.1080/10410236.2014.965381 Thomson, R. G. (1996). Freakery: Cultural spectacles of the extraordinary body. New York, NY: New York University Press.
  29. 29. AUTISM AND MEDIA 29 Thomson, R. G. (1997). Extraordinary bodies: Figuring physical disability in American culture and literature. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
  30. 30. AUTISM AND MEDIA 30 Appendix https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Preview/?sm=brcMabVvAudzXdnviuJTbPwi7VR 7Sh4fnRW8xUPSJoD09Sbt1BuDOhpFpwouR8MY https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VV7NZLK Crosstab What is your gender? TotalFemale Male Other On a scale of 1 to 5, how often do you think autism is portrayed in stereotypicalways in the media? Rarely Count 2 1 0 3 % within On a scale of 1 to 5, how often do you think autism is portrayed in stereotypicalways in the media? 66.7% 33.3% 0.0% 100.0% % within What is your gender? 10.0% 10.0% 0.0% 9.7% % of Total 6.5% 3.2% 0.0% 9.7% Sometimes Count 8 2 1 11 % within On a scale of 1 to 5, how often do you think autism is portrayed in stereotypicalways in the media? 72.7% 18.2% 9.1% 100.0% % within What is your gender? 40.0% 20.0% 100.0% 35.5% % of Total 25.8% 6.5% 3.2% 35.5% Often Count 7 4 0 11 % within On a scale of 1 to 5, how often do you think autism is portrayed in stereotypicalways in the media? 63.6% 36.4% 0.0% 100.0% % within What is your gender? 35.0% 40.0% 0.0% 35.5% % of Total 22.6% 12.9% 0.0% 35.5% Very often Count 3 3 0 6 % within On a scale of 1 to 5, how often do you think autism is portrayed in stereotypicalways in the media? 50.0% 50.0% 0.0% 100.0%
  31. 31. AUTISM AND MEDIA 31 % within What is your gender? 15.0% 30.0% 0.0% 19.4% % of Total 9.7% 9.7% 0.0% 19.4% Total Count 20 10 1 31 % within On a scale of 1 to 5, how often do you think autism is portrayed in stereotypicalways in the media? 64.5% 32.3% 3.2% 100.0% % within What is your gender? 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% % of Total 64.5% 32.3% 3.2% 100.0% Interview 1: Josh Date: 10-31-2016 Time: 2:40pm-3:00pm Location: Anthropology classroom Question 1: What is your gender? Answer: Male. Question 2: What is your race? Answer: White. Question 3: How often do you watch TV? Answer: Almost every day Question 4: How often do you watch the news? Answer: A lot every day Question 5: How often do you spend time on social media? Answer: Not that much Question 6: When you hear the word “autism” what comes to mind first? Answer: Josh first thought of people who do not make eye contact. He associated the word “autism” with people with learning disabilities who were seen as socially awkward. Question 7: How do you feel about how autism is portrayed in the media? Answer: Josh had mixed feelings of how autism is portrayed. He explained that the media misrepresents individuals with autism and that it perpetuates stereotypes. Question 8: Have you ever seen autism portrayed or discussed in the media? How often do you see autism in the media? What contexts? Answer: He said that spends lots of time watching TV and that the media portrays autism in stereotypical ways. Question 9: If you could portray autism (or any disability) in any media form for a project, how would you do it, and why? Answer: He said that he would “keep it real” with no misrepresentation of autism like many TV shows. He then explained in frustration how there is misinformation about autism on blogs, such as the claim that vaccines are a cause of autism. Question 10: Do you think autism stereotypes exist? In what ways? Answer: Josh explained that people do not want to hear assumptions about autism; they only want simple answers. Opinions about autism are biased, according to him. Question 11: What are some cultural demographics that might influence perception of autism and disabilities in general? Why do you think some cultural demographics may be more influential than others in influencing how autism is portrayed?
  32. 32. AUTISM AND MEDIA 32 Answer: According to him, many college-aged individuals are more understanding of people with disabilities because they know about the disabilities and society. In northeastern American culture, people were more accepting to others they knew, than to random strangers. Josh also added that women were more sympathetic and tolerant toward individuals with disabilities in general, with men being not as sympathetic. Influencing factors of women being more accepting would be gender bias and socialization. He explained that women were more sympathetic and tolerant toward individuals with disabilities in general, with men being not as sympathetic. Influencing factors of women being more accepting would be gender bias and socialization. Question 12: What are some techniques that the media and society could use to portray autism in a more accepting way? Answer: First, Josh said that that was a hard question. Then he explained that showing individuals with autism as people would be an important technique. Media that he watched, often portrayed people with autism as “neurotic” and “outcasts.” When it comes to gaining information about autism and disabilities, said that people should ask professionals like the American Psychological Association, instead of other people who do not know about the disorder. The more we know about what autism really is, the more likely people will accept those who have it. Question 13: How much do you think society has done so far to raise awareness of autism and how has it been portrayed in the media? Where are areas of improvement? Answer: Josh said that we have come a long way. He said that in modern times, it is okay for someone to say that he/she has a disability or that someone they know has a disability. There is more understanding and acceptance of learning disabilities, but society still has a long way to go. Question 14: What do you propose needs to be done about autism awareness and portrayal? Answer: He said that many people are afraid of things they do not understand like autism. Some portrayals of autism are beneficial, but they are not as common as negative portrayals. An example of a stereotypical portrayal he gave was from a TV show called Closure, where a child was lost in his own world, even during a traumatic event. Overall, the interview went smoothly. Although, I was nervous at first, I soon grew comfortable in my role. Josh briefly comforted me when I was nervous and encouraged me to take deep breaths. He wanted to make sure that he gave good answers to the questions and I said that he did. During the interview, he made good eye contact with me and used his hands when he explained his perspectives of autism portrayal. Josh had a frustrated tone of voice when he mentioned that many people do not understand autism, and therefore they make illogical assumptions and stereotypes about it. Both of us were interested in the topic of disabilities, and we occasionally exchanged ideas of our own. When the interview was over, I thanked Josh for his participation and we exchanged a casual fist bump at the end. After he left, I went back to my homework. Interview 2: Diana Date: 11-1-16 Time: 9:00-9:22pm Location: Dorm living room Question 1: What is your gender? Answer: Female. Question 2: What is your race? Answer: White. Question 3: How often do you watch TV?
  33. 33. AUTISM AND MEDIA 33 Answer: It depends on whether I have school or not. Around 2-4 hours per day. Question 4: How often do you watch the news? Answer: Never. Question 5: How often do you send time on social media? Answer: Two hours per week at the least. Question 6: When you hear the word “autism” what comes to mind first? Answer: The first thing that came to Diana’s mind was people on the autism spectrum. She told me that she met a boy who was very autistic and could not function on his own. In therapy group, she worked with a girl who had Aspergers, a milder form of autism. She said that autism is a spectrum and you can’t group individuals under one label. Question 7: How do you feel about how autism is portrayed in the media? Answer: Diana explained that there was not enough portrayal of autism in the media. The portrayals that she saw were articles on the anti-vaccine movement, which, in her opinion were extreme and illogical. Teenagers and college students were criticizing an organization called Autism Speaks on Tumblr. She mentioned that Autism Speaks and society are very ablest; they give social privilege to people who are not disabled. In this case, both the anti-vaccine movement and Autism Speaks portray autism as a “bad” disorder for children, teens, and adults to have. Question 8: Have you ever seen autism portrayed or discussed in the media? How often do you see autism in the media? What contexts? Answer: Diana explained that saw autism portrayed when she saw anti-vaccine posts on Tumblr. She was not exposed to media that much. Question 9: If you could portray autism (or any disability) in any media form for a project, how would you do it, and why? Answer: Diana would consult people who have autism first and let them “have the reins and pens.” She said that she would not get too involved and instead would let individuals with autism represent themselves in the media. If disadvantaged groups could tell their stories, then there would be more accurate representations of autism in the media. Question 10: Do you think autism stereotypes exist? In what ways? Answer: We live in a very ablest society. There are not a lot of accurate, accepting images of autism in the media. The stereotypical portrayals of autism are used by neurotypical people who have internalized stereotypes about autism. Question 11: What are some cultural demographics that might influence perception of autism and disabilities in general? Why do you think some cultural demographics may be more influential than others in influencing how autism is portrayed? Answer: Before Diana answered, she mentioned that this was a hard question. She said that the demographics would depend on which gender has more prevalence of autism. In terms of race, African Americans can be less likely to receive help for disabilities than whites. The support of social systems affects the level of help people can get. Caucasians are more likely to get help from social resources. She then said that most privileged groups were neurotypical white men. The white men could be influential in influencing how autism is portrayed. They could portray autism accurately and as a “good” disorder, or an overly stereotypical inaccurate portrayal. It depends on who is portraying the stories and how much social privilege they have. Question 12: What are some techniques that the media and society could use to portray autism in a more accepting way? Answer: By the people, for the people. Let people with autism have more control over what is portrayed in the media (directing, writing, talking). The portrayal of skilled savants can be
  34. 34. AUTISM AND MEDIA 34 cilices. It is cool that people with autism are portrayed as intelligent, but it should not be done to the extreme. Question 13: How much do you think society has done so far to raise awareness of autism and how has it been portrayed in the media? Where are areas of improvement? Answer: Diana stated again that she saw many posts on Tumblr about autism. She talked about how college students, and teenagers 13, 14, and 15 years old were speaking out about Autism Speaks, describing them as a “good counterculture” to the technical negative portrayals of the disorder. Thinking critically about controversial topics such as the anti-vaccine debate and Autism Speaks is important, according to her. Question 14: What do you propose needs to be done about autism awareness and portrayal? Answer: By the people, for the people. Give people with autism the right to share their own stories. Even though both of us were getting tired, it was a great interview overall. There were a couple of questions that Diana had trouble answering. I let her think about her answers for several minutes, and then she responded. She seemed interested in the topic, even though she did not have as much media exposure as my first participant. Both of us had good eye contact as we sat comfortably on soft chairs. Although she was not exposed to autism in the media as much, Diana did have knowledge on how disability is correlated with social norms and how these norms are displayed in the media. I thanked her for her time and then I went back to my dorm to read. Interview 3: Jasmine Date: 11-7-16 Time: 9:32-9:58am Location: Bedroom Question 1: What is your gender? Answer: Female Question 2: What is your race? Answer: Caucasian Question 3: How often do you watch TV? Answer: She said that it varies all the time. She usually watched Netflix on her computer, around 30 minutes per day. Question 4: How often do you watch the news? Answer: “Whenever my mom has (the news) on.” Jasmine often watches the news on weekends. Question 5: How often do you spend time on social media? Answer: “Way too much.” “My Facebook is like my phone.” 30 minutes per day. Question 6: When you hear the word “autism” what comes to mind first? Answer: “That’s a hard question… Disability?” She would often think, “Get over it.” Question 7: How do you feel about how autism is portrayed in the media? Answer: “I haven’t paid much attention to the media.” Question 8: Have you ever seen autism portrayed or discussed in the media? How often do you see autism in the media? What contexts? Answer: Jasmine said that she had not seen autism in the media very much. Question 9: If you could portray autism (or any disability) in any media form for a project, how would you do it, and why? Answer: She said that she did not know, at first. An art project, according to her. She would portray disabilities in a “colorful, positive” way.
  35. 35. AUTISM AND MEDIA 35 Question 10: Do you think autism stereotypes exist? In what ways? Answer: “Stereotypes exist to make people different. That is how stereotypes work.” Question 11: What are some cultural demographics that might influence perception of autism and disabilities in general? Why do you think some cultural demographics may be more influential than others in influencing how autism is portrayed? Answer: She said that a factor would be the “way a person looks” as well as their behavior. She then stated that she was better with numbers and business information. Question 12: What are some techniques that the media and society could use to portray autism in a more accepting way? Answer: Jasmine said that they could “stop portrayal” altogether. She said that she does not watch much media and that people should treat people with disabilities normally. Question 13: How much do you think society has done so far to raise awareness of autism and how has it been portrayed in the media? Where are areas of improvement? Answer: “I don’t watch media for the most part.” Question 14: What do you propose needs to be done about autism awareness and portrayal? Answer: “I have no idea.” Jasmine said that there was no autism in a show that she liked and that she mostly had pictures of horses and animals. Jasmine lay down comfortably on her bed, saying that she would like to answer my questions and so she could get a distraction from her homework. Even though she remained in the same position, she still made good eye contact with me. Out of my other interviewees, she had the least exposure to autism portrayal in the media. However, like everyone else I met up with, Jasmine said that people with disabilities want to be treated normally like human beings. Unlike the other interviews, this one felt more rushed, even though it was in a quiet space. At the end, I thanked her for her time and then went to analyze my notes. Interview 4: Emily Date: 11-7-16 Time: 10:41-11:03am Location: Living room/kitchen Question 1: What is your gender? Answer: Female Question 2: What is your race? Answer: Caucasian Question 3: How often do you watch TV? Answer: Never. Question 4: How often do you watch the news? Answer: She goes under websites but does not watch TV. Question 5: How often do you spend time on social media? Answer: “Too often.” Emily was not sure how many hours she spends on. Question 6: When you hear the word “autism” what comes to mind first? Answer: Conversation, issues/difficulties Question 7: How do you feel about how autism is portrayed in the media? Answer: “It is lacking.” She had not seen any media portrayals with autism. Question 8: Have you ever seen autism portrayed or discussed in the media? How often do you see autism in the media? What contexts? Answer: She said that the autism stereotypes were over-exaggerated, particularly in movies and on TV.
  36. 36. AUTISM AND MEDIA 36 Question 9: If you could portray autism (or any disability) in any media form for a project, how would you do it and why? Answer: Emily said that she would portray autism people as they really are in movies and performances. She said that it should be made less taboo. Question 10: Do you think autism stereotypes exist? In what ways? Answer: “It is taboo.” Media people are uneducated in these areas. Question 11: What are some cultural demographics that might influence perception of autism and disabilities in general? Why do you think some cultural demographics may be more influential than others in influencing how autism is portrayed? Answer: Depends on the people you ask. She said that age is a factor for her. It differs from person to person. Question 12: What are some techniques that the media and society could use to portray autism in a more accepting way? Answer: Portray them as they really are and focus on their everyday life. Question 13: How much do you think society has done so far to raise awareness of autism and how it has been portrayed in the media? Where are areas of improvement? Answer: “I don’t watch many shows.” Everything can be improved. Question 14: What do you propose needs to be done about autism awareness and portrayal? Answer: Have actors/actresses with autism play people with autism. Do not complicate their lives and experiences. “Talk more about it!” This interview went well. Emily answered my first several questions as she was getting food from the kitchen. Then she sat down on a stool to answer my other questions. Other than getting food, there were no other distractions. She made eye contact with me and she used hand gestures when she talked. Even though, she was not exposed to autism in the media, she knew more about autism than my previous interviewee did. Like the other interviews, she wanted people with autism to be accepted and treated like everyone else. One of the main points she said was that talking about disabilities is seen as taboo and that there needs to be more portrayal of autism in the media. She was also very polite to me as well. I thanked her for my time and then went straight to my notes when I got back to my room. Interview 5: Bethany Date: 11-7-16 Time: 2:25-2:40pm Location: Classroom Question 1: What is your gender? Answer: Female Question 2: What is your race? Answer: Caucasian Question 3: How often do you watch TV? Answer: Around three hours a week Question 4: How often do you watch the news? Answer: Never Question 5: How often do you spend time on social media? Answer: Three hours a day. Question 6: When you hear the word “autism” what comes to mind first? Answer: People. One student comes to lessons; he has energy and is fun to be with, but had some behavioral issues.
  37. 37. AUTISM AND MEDIA 37 Question 7: How do you feel about how autism is portrayed in the media? Answer: It is negative portrayal. There are lots of anti-vaccine controversy. People are afraid of differences. Some would rather have their children die of a disease than be stuck with a disorder. Question 8: Have you ever seen autism portrayed or discussed in the media? How often do you see autism in the media? What contexts? Answer: Bethany said that autism is portrayed on TV and in sitcoms. It is perceived as a “bad” obstacle to overcome. Question 9: If you could portray autism (or any disability) in any media form for a project, how would you do it, and why? Answer: Autism is in TV shows and sitcoms. Autism is portrayed as an obstacle to be overcome. Question 10: Do you think autism stereotypes exist? In what ways? Answer: For any difference such as gender, race and physical/mental ability, the best way is to “not make a big deal out of it.” Have autism out there, let it be there, do not let it be the focus of a story. We are more similar than we think. Question 11: What are some cultural demographics that might influence perception of autism and disabilities in general? Why do you think some cultural demographics may be more influential than others in influencing how autism is portrayed? Answer: “People are afraid of difference.” Anything new is intensified. Anything new leads to misunderstanding because of a lack of education. Do not let misunderstanding effect people. Cultural demographics are already influential in perception of autism and disabilities. Millennials are much more open-minded than the older generation. Millennials have been exposed to the idea of embracing difference. The older generations are stuck in their beliefs. Question 12: What are some techniques that the media and society could use to portray autism in a more accepting way? Answer: Do not make a big deal out of it. Portray everyone as human, first. Acceptance, not difference. Question 13: How much do you think society has done so far to raise awareness of autism and how has it been portrayed in the media? Where are areas of improvement? Answer: Millennials are more accepting because of social media. She likes the puzzle support ribbons and individual changes drives social change. Hollywood and the media drives conversations about acceptance of disabilities and differences backwards. Conversations are well with individuals, not well with social media. Social media needs improvement on how it portrays autism and human differences. The U.S and worldwide could benefit from accurate portrayals. Question 14: What do you propose needs to be done about autism awareness and portrayal? Answer: Treat everyone like human beings. Create society into a place where it is ok to talk about differences. Diversity makes U.S. and worldwide great. This interview was very insightful. We sat down next to each other at a desk and got started. Bethany was polite and had good eye contact with me. Similar to my first and second interviews, this person had knowledge of the sociological factors behind autism portrayal in the media. A common theme was her mentioning that the younger millennial generation are, in general, more accepting of individuals who are seen as different, from the older generations. Bethany also mentioned that people are afraid of things they do not understand and that people with autism should be treated like normal human beings. Fear of difference, raising awareness, and accepting other people are themes that have been common in several of my previous interviews. What made this interview unique was that she specifically explained cultural factors that influence perceptions of autism: social media exposure, and generation gaps. Bethany also
  38. 38. AUTISM AND MEDIA 38 added that these factors extended to race, gender, status, and other backgrounds. When the interview was over, I thanked her for her time and went back to my seat to analyze my notes. Interview 6: Patrick Date: 11-7-16 Time: 8:40-8:57pm Location: Dorm living room Question 1: What is your gender? Answer: Male Question 2: What is your race? Answer: Caucasian Question 3: How often do you watch TV? Answer: Not very often. There is nothing on his cable network service. Although, he does like cartoons and watched TV with his family on occasion. Question 4: How often do you watch the news? Answer: Patrick never turns on the news; he only watches the news when his mother turns it on. Question 5: How often do you spend time on social media? Answer: Patrick goes on Facebook and social media every once in a while. Question 6: When you hear the word “autism” what comes to mind first? Answer: A type of mental disorder, trouble understanding the difference between social cues, lower external awareness, higher internal awareness to counteract. Question 7: How do you feel about how autism is portrayed in the media? Answer: Patrick said that he had not watched a whole lot, characters may be seen as having autism, but not directly stated. Question 8: Have you ever seen autism portrayed or discussed in the media? How often do you see autism in the media? What contexts? Answer: He said that he occasionally has seen autism portrayed in the media. He said he does not watch much TV or watch the news. Question 9: If you could portray autism (or any disability) in any media form for a project, how would you do it, and why? Answer: Patrick saw a news report that autism appears in 1 in 88 people. Awareness of autism is increasing as well as autism itself, but what autism actually is, needs to be increased. Question 10: Why do you think autism stereotypes exist and why is autism portrayed in different ways in the media? Answer: Have characteristics for characters but they are not relevant. Autistic people are on the same level as everyone else. He likes diverse ethnology groups. Question 11: What are some cultural demographics that might influence perception of autism and disabilities in general? Why do you think some cultural demographics may be more influential than others in influencing how autism is portrayed? Answer: Not sure what autism stereotypes are, he said he was not social. He said there was no difference in the influence of cultural demographics. Question 12: What are some techniques that the media and society could use to portray autism in a more accepting way? Answer: Making autistic people equal contributors alongside non-autistic people. Question 13: How much do you think society has done so far to raise awareness of autism and how has it been portrayed in the media? Where are areas of improvement?
  39. 39. AUTISM AND MEDIA 39 Answer: (He asked me to ask the question again.) Could be more, do not hear about it often, many people do not know the full definition of autism. Question 14: What do you propose needs to be done about autism awareness and portrayal? Answer: Patrick said that he did not have a lot of exposure to autism portrayal in the media. There should be more awareness of the full definition of autism, what it really is, what makes them autistic, and what it is like for many people. This portrayal and awareness could lead to greater understanding and acceptance of people with autism. This interview went well. I sat with Patrick on the couch and we got started. He used his hands when he talked and made some eye contact. He talked less about broad sociological concepts and focused more on definitions of autism. This was similar to many of my other interviewees who were not exposed to autism portrayal in the media. I thanked him for his time and left to go study.
  40. 40. AUTISM AND MEDIA 40 Date of video Title and URL Context of lyrics Gender of artist Emotions of song Target audience Imagery/colors Apr 1 2014 “We’ll Get By” by Johnny Orr Band. YouTube video, 3:55. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBOSr7JK8OA “My autism is like a prison” mentioned twice, “cry” mentioned twice, “mind” twice. Encourages patience and understanding of autistic children, even with struggles Male Sad, hopeful, “sadness” “joy” “feelings in the mind” Parents, general audience People in shadow, kids in classroom May 16 2013 “When The Children Cry” by Flatline. YouTube video, 4:44. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTRf5d_TyGI “When the children cry” mentioned many times Male “Cry” sadness General audience Children swinging, distressed mother, black and white clips, autism statistics in subtitles, woman introducing autism in the beginning, rapper holding his autistic son Feb 24 2013 “So It Goes” by Songs For Autism Campaign. YouTube video, 4:16. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1zZt4jHvnk Autism statistics at beginning, “Self-injury, aggression, flight” subtitles. People with autism want to “make friends, share their talents, and work”, It comes and it goes” three times, “we go” twelve times Female and Male “Innocence” “sadness” “love” General audience, parents, mothers Sad black and white picture of a boy, pictures of cute children, mother holding son, protester holding sign: “If you cut my son’s budget, can he move in with you?” Aug 13 2011 “Don’t Give Up on Me” by Victoria Boland. YouTube video, 4:57. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdGGqsQs2LI Theme of nurturing and needing to be cared for, “Love” five times Female “Love” “Longing” “Need” “Effort to be good” General audience, parents Colorful images of children, DNA helixes, clouds, silhouette of a teenage boy, etc.
  41. 41. AUTISM AND MEDIA 41 Apr 30 2010 “The Girl Inside” by Emily Burke. YouTube video, 4:11. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDzAcZFI7qA “Life with autism is far from easy” statement at beginning “Understand” used twice, “inside” used 8 times, “me” used 20 times, “see” used 9 times Female “Longing” “Love” “understanding mental life” “apologetic” “Self- confidence” General audience, parents Photo of artist, lyrics in white letters, background changing color with the words “simply cannot hide” People with autism are caring and loving, encourages other people to understand and listen to them Mar 19 2011 “Through My Eyes” by Scott James. YouTube video, 3:54. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGCrzmJfwcE Theme of understanding, “I am not…” three times, “Imagine what it’s like” seven times Male “Knowledge” “Freedom” “Understanding” “bright future” “Faith” “Working together” General audience Songwriter singing in the video, writing lyrics, Sunlight shines through a window Jan 16 2013 “Reach For You” by Eric Strangeland and Erika Davidson. YouTube video, 3:59. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpVaMLpTYe0 “You are perfect” mentioned twice, “Give you love” three times, mother sings she will do everything to help her son Male and Female “Love” “Happiness” General audience, parents Pictures of babies, mother holding baby’s hand Mar 7 2008 “I’m In Here” by BJ McKelvie. YouTube video, 4:32. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hiQYurSJCQ “Crying” sung five times, “I’m in here” mentioned four times. The song played on the radio will support funds to “fight autism.” “…no known cause and no cure. Yet!” Male and Female Love, sadness, longing “this song will touch people’s hearts and help raise awareness for autism.” Children, general audience Picture of mother holding child to a sunset, pictures of various children. Mar 21 2014 “Not So Different” by Cassandra Kubinski. YouTube video, 4:35. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXxCDJ5ZoW4 “Different” used 10 times, “Listen” used 3 times, Many words related Female “Awareness” “self- expression” “love” “joy” People must General audience Images of children and people in their everyday lives,
  42. 42. AUTISM AND MEDIA 42 to light and darkness: “Spectrum” “Color” “Light” “Dark” work together to understand each other and people with autism Children doing arts and crafts, a girl removes a paper mask that a boy holds to his face May 27 2014 “I’ll Never Give Up on You” by George L. Rodriguez. YouTube video, 4:15. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8a6ufii_1s Never giving up, “Themes of self: you, yourself, your, you’re used 29 times total, Other people will be there for autistic children Male “Laughter” “Love” “Patience” “Faith” “Determination” children with autism White lyrics on a space background

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