Award Date

May 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Journalism and Media Studies

First Committee Member

Paul Traudt

Second Committee Member

Julian Kilker

Third Committee Member

Cori More

Fourth Committee Member

Benjamin Burroughs

Number of Pages



Media Portrayals of Autism Spectrum Disorder: A CARS2 and frame analysis of the Sesame Street character Julia Media portrayals of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are grossly exaggerated and inaccurate. Julia, a Muppet with ASD, is not depicted as having high-functioning autism, but most of the exaggerated portrayals depicted in movies and television are of a person on that end of the spectrum. The current study, a quantitative content analysis of Julia from Sesame Street, draws from framing theory, most importantly stigmatizing cues, and utilizes the professional assessment tool, the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS2). The tool was used to rate the severity of Julia’s autism symptomology. Frames were used to analyze the dialogue surrounding Julia, and the CARS2 was employed to analyze her portrayal. Fewer socially stigmatizing cues were found in this media content than were found in previous research, implying that Julia was stigmatized less than others. Julia’s CARS2 scores placed her in the average autism symptomology group, implying that Julia’s ASD symptoms are not exaggerated like other television shows have portrayed those characters with autism. She does, however, exhibit exceptional abilities or “peak skills”. People with ASD have a lack of voice regarding their portrayals, so accuracy of representation is crucial. Ultimately Julia’s character has the potential to improve the interactions between children with ASD and their typical peers.


autism training programs; childhood autism rating scale; early childhood education; media portrayals; media studies; stigmatizing frames


Education | Pre-Elementary, Early Childhood, Kindergarten Teacher Education | Sociology | Special Education and Teaching

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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