Electronic Journal for Inclusive Education


The purpose of this study was to analyze disability portrayals in 14 young adult literature (YAL) novels featuring characters with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) according to the elements of characterization, plot, and theme. Results revealed that characters were frequently portrayed as competent, multidimensional, and neither as a hero nor a victim. Characters with ASD commonly spoke for themselves through a first-person perspective and were generally portrayed in an accurate manner facing conflicts similar to same-age peers. Plots focused on what the character could do, however, some plot events seemed contrived rather than realistic, with the climax and resolution often focusing on the character’s disability. Social acceptance and the desire for friendship was a common theme throughout many of the books. Recommendations for using YAL in the classroom to teach about students with ASD are provided.