In the past decade, there has been a boom in representations of varied identities on entertainment television, including characters with mental illness and disabilities. There has particularly been an increase in television representations of autism spectrum disorders, which has coincided with the reframing of autism in the DSM-5. Exposure to these characters has increased public awareness of what autism actually looks like, but their characteristics are still very narrow and do not represent the full range of people with autism and what their experiences with the condition are actually like. In this thesis, I will explore historic representations of autism on screen, examine how television representations of autism line up with DSM-5 criteria for autism spectrum disorders, and identify where there are gaps in holistically presenting what people with autism look like and how these can negatively affect public understanding of the condition.
Veltri, Kellie N., "Please, Hold Your Toothpicks: An Analysis of Autism on Contemporary Television" (2020). Haslam Scholars Projects.