A novel approach: autism in books

This is a piece I wrote following my first summer of research (published Winter 2018) in the magazine of the National Autistic Society, 'Your Autism'. The article focuses on recurring themes in representation that I identified after reading 15 texts with a character with autism.

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Matthew Bantick

Laidlaw Scholar, University of York

My research looked at characters in originally English language novels who were explicitly identified on the blurb or in the text as having autism. The two elements included in my title ('accuracy' and 'utility') corresponded to the two periods of research. During my first period of work I read 15 texts which fit my parameters, and examined them for accuracy, as well as producing meta-analysis of 180 texts to examine the prevailing images of autism in terms of the age and sex of the portrayals. I have uploaded my findings from this work onto my website, https://autisminfiction.wordpress.com. During my second research period I conducted 12 interviews with three groups: people with autism, people who had a family member with autism, and professionals who work with people with autism. The interviews included a discussion of how participants' experiences of and opinions on representations of autism in culture (novels, TV, films), how autism is understood by the general public, and the role that culture plays in influencing the general public's understanding of autism.