A team of researchers at Edge Hill University has been awarded funding by the British Academy (BA) to investigate portrayals of autism in the British press in a bid to address the acceptance of the lifelong neurodevelopmental condition that affects the lives of millions in the UK.
The interdisciplinary research team hopes to offer new insights into public perceptions and stereotypes towards autism in the UK and develop public policy recommendations to promote the acceptance of autistic people.
Dr Themis Karaminis, a Senior Lecturer in Psychology who researches autism and neurocognitive development, leads the project. Other team members include Dr Costas Gabrielatos, Senior Lecturer in English Language and corpus-linguist, Professor Geoff Beattie, an internationally acknowledged expert on implicit cognition, and Dr Ursula Maden-Weinberger, corpus linguist and research coordinator of the project.
Dr Karaminis and Dr Gabrielatos have recently received a BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grant (SRG20/201250) to study implicit attitudes towards autism in the British Press. The BA/Leverhulme SRG is a prestigious award scheme, which supports primary research in the humanities and social sciences with identifiable outcomes on completion.
Dr Karaminis said: “We are delighted to have received support from the British Academy to work on this project on autism acceptance. Feeling accepted is crucial for the successful integration of autistic people in education, work and society. Feeling accepted also has a significant impact on the mental health of autistic people, who often present mental health difficulties, including anxiety, social anxiety, or depression. How accepting is British society towards autism and autistic people?
“In this project, we will address this question through the lens of the press. We know that the press reflects and, more importantly, constructs public views. This project will aim to uncover how the British press uses — and, possibly, manipulates — language when reporting on autism and autistic people.
“We hope that our project will offer valuable new insights into public perceptions and stereotypes and towards autism. This knowledge will be useful for the development of public policies to promote autism acceptance in the UK and abroad.”
The study ‘Implicit Attitudes towards Autism in the British Press‘ started in January 2021 and will take 18 months to complete.
Edge Hill offers many opportunities for undergraduate and postgraduate studies. These include five undergraduate degree programmes and postgraduate programmes at the Department of Psychology, which has research strengths in autism, and the MA course in Critical Autism Studies in the Department of Social Sciences.