Representations of autism in Australian print media



Publication Details

Jones, S. C. & Harwood, V. (2009). Representations of autism in Australian print media. Disability & Society, 24 (1), 5-18.


The mass media provides a frame for discourse around important health issues, and it has been widely demonstrated that the development and reinforcement of stereotypes of minority groups are strongly influenced by the news and entertainment media. An extensive search of academic databases failed to locate any studies which examined the representation of autism in the news media, although there were a number of articles on the media role in the autism and MMR debate. This paper reports on an examination of the extent, and nature, of coverage of autism spectrum disorders in the Australian print media between 1996 and 2005. Key findings include a relatively limited amount of factual information and a dual stereotype of people labeled as having autism as either dangerous anduncontrollable or unloved and poorly treated. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of the nature and tone of this coverage of autism and its potential impact on individuals described as autistic, their families and carers and the community in general.Keywords: autism; media representation; discourse

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