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DSM-5 Autism Spectrum Disorder Symptomology in Award-Winning Narrative Fiction

DSM-5 Autism Spectrum Disorder Symptomology in Award-Winning Narrative Fiction

Jane E. Kelley, Brenda L. Barrio, Teresa A. Cardon, Christina Brando-Subis, Saeun Lee, and Katharine Smith


Abstract: Educators have used narrative fiction to expand knowledge and facilitate awareness about underrepresented populations, including those with disabilities. This study is a content analysis of nine award-winning young-adult narrative fiction books with characters depicting individuals with ASD.  The analysis yielded a total of 285 symptoms that were coded based on the American Psychiatric Association’s definition of ASD symptoms.  Analysis revealed that 72% of the total symptoms depicted repetitive or restrictive behaviors, and the remaining 28% represented social communication difficulties or deficits as described by the DSM-5.  The results of this study show that few fictional stories depict the difficulties of social communication as it is often observed in high-functioning individuals with ASD.  Therefore, narrative fiction that overplays the restrictive, repetitive behaviors and underplays the social communication deficits perpetuates misconceptions about ASD. Narrative fiction with main characters clearly shows ASD symptoms have large implications for stakeholders working with students with ASD.

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