Term of Award

Fall 2017

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Curriculum Studies (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)


Department of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading

Committee Chair

Delores Liston

Committee Member 1

Julie Garlen

Committee Member 2

Kymberly Harris

Committee Member 3

Regina Rahimi

Committee Member 3 Email



People learn about the world through popular culture. Popular culture media representations of autism can be found in TV, film, literature, Internet media, advertisements, and more. This study employed a quantitative correlational design to survey 273 Georgia educators regarding their perceptions of autism, including knowledge about autism, best practices for teaching students labeled as having autism, perceived positivity and accuracy of popular media representations of autism, as well as participant identification with popular media representations of autism and personal characteristics (i.e., age, sex, level of education, type of degree, years of teaching experience, professional and personal experiences). Six major findings emerged from this study. First, there is no relationship between media usage and knowledge of autism or knowledge of best practices. Second, factors contributing to more knowledge of best practices include more teaching experience, specialized training, and working in inclusive or varied settings. Third, the majority of educators did not associate autism with negative traits, nor did they align with early theories of autism. Fourth, educators noted communication and functional skills to be the most important focus of education. Fifth, educators believed that students with autism should be educated with their non-disabled peers as much as possible. Finally, the majority of educators learned about autism through personal experiences or professional development, not popular culture media. Results suggest that field experiences working with students labeled as having autism and integrated critical disability models should be incorporated into educator preparation and professional development.

Research Data and Supplementary Material