Date of Graduation
College of Education and Human Services
Curriculum & Instruction/Literacy Studies
Twenty-six contemporary North American award-winning intermediate children's and young adult fictional books were identified that contained twenty-seven protagonists with communication disorders (CD). These books were evaluated using an adaptation of the Dyches & Prater (2000) Rating Scale for Quality Characterizations of Individuals with Disabilities in Children's Literature. Each guideline is discussed in detail while examining the quality of portrayed characterizations and literary elements in the eligible literature. The types of CDs depicted were language, speech and hearing disorders. No protagonists with central auditory processing disorders were found. Almost half of the protagonists had language disorders, making it the most commonly portrayed type of CD. Approximately a fourth of the main characters with CDs had autism spectrum disorders. The overall quality of all of the books was positive. The books scored well in categories, such as, social interactions, personal portrayals, exemplary practices and sibling relationships. Within these categories the literature measured well above the acceptable level on such portrayal characteristics as accuracy, realism, character development, interest/strengths, reciprocal and variety of relationships, empathy, respect, valued occupations, promoting self-determination, and full citizenship opportunities. The only area that fell below the 90th percentile was the trait of using nondiscriminatory language that avoids stereotypical portrayals. Within this study two different comparisons were made using the results of the rating scale. In the first comparison, scores of authors who had some personal connection with the primary or secondary disorder that contributed to the CD were compared to authors who had no personal connection to the CD being described. The group of books written by authors having connections with disabilities portrayed in their books scored overall at least 10% higher in topics relating to: primary relationships with paid personnel, caregiver relationships, fear of association by characters without disabilities, receiving appropriate services, and providing additional information for readers to find out more about disabilities. In the other group of books that were written by authors that did not have any connection with the disabilities depicted in their books, score differences higher than at least 10% were discovered in the following areas: using nondiscriminatory language, relationships with friends and siblings, and being portrayed as victims, initiators and protectors. This group also had two books that had protagonists with CDs whose CDs were irrelevant to the story. In the second comparison in this study, the scores of books that won awards that were created specifically to honor the portrayal of individuals with disabilities were compared to those scores of books that won awards that did not specifically honor disabilities. The group of books that won awards that were created specifically to honor the portrayal of individuals with disabilities scored overall at least 10% higher in topics relating to: being depicted as initiator and caregiver, receiving appropriate services, portraying attitudes and practices congruent with the era, having feelings of guilt toward the protagonist with CD, and providing additional information for readers to find out more about disabilities. In the other group of books that won awards that did not specifically honor individuals with disabilities, score differences higher than at least 10% were discovered in the following areas: using nondiscriminatory language, being portrayed as victims and protectors and having books that had protagonists with CDs whose CDs were irrelevant to the story.
Lefevre, Jane, "The Portrayal of Protagonists with Communication Disorders in Contemporary Award-Winning Juvenile Fiction" (2015). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 6054.