Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science Education

Degree Level



Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communication Disorders


Hagstrom, Fran

Committee Member/Reader

Bowers, Larry

Committee Member/Second Reader

Bowers, Lisa


The purpose of this study was to examine how accurately autism was depicted in the media (specifically in television) when compared to the scientifically accepted definition. Data for this study was gathered using coding sheets that outlined the definitive and secondary characteristics of autism. While watching six episodes of the television show The Big Bang Theory and six episodes of the television show Parenthood, examiners evaluated scenes involving the character with autism using a separate coding sheet for each designated scene. Examiners used the continuous coding method, identifying each instance of particular trait observed throughout the scene. Fifteen different traits were analyzed. Traits were recorded on a coding sheet. Results were analyzed qualitatively then compared to scientific definitions of autism to assess the validity of each show. Characteristics of autism were present in both the adult with autism in The Big Bang Theory and the child with autism in Parenthood. Both shows focused primarily on the DSM-IV features to represent the character with autism. Secondary characteristics were also exhibited, but were not as prominent. Differences between the adult character and the child character were also noted.