Allison Miller

Document Type



Department of Communication


Autism; Episodic Frames; Sources; Stereotypes; Stigmatizing Cues; Thematic Frames


Bryant University

Rights Management

All rights retained by Allison Miller and Bryant University


The public's understanding of disabilities is cultivated via several media resources, including news media. Disability scholars often cite negative representations of disabilities in mass media, yet analyses of newspaper journalists' coverage of autism remain scarce. The present study explores the frames, stereotypes, stigmatizing cues, and individuals cited in news coverage of autism through a content analysis of The New York Times and USA Today coverage of autism from 2013-2016. The findings revealed that episodic frames are consistently utilized to discuss autism. References to abnormal social tendencies and coupling autism with adverse circumstances were the most common stereotypes in newspaper coverage. The study’s results show that the presence of stigmatizing cues increased over time, with label references representing the most common stigmatizing cue. Episodic coverage was more stigmatizing than thematic news coverage. Medical professional and journalist sources were most present in news coverage. Theoretical and practical applications for media and disability scholars are discussed.