Kayla Way

A Whole Other World to See: A Rhetorical and Visual Analysis of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children’s Literature

April 2, 2021   /  

Student Name: Kayla Way
Major(s): Communication Studies
Minor(s): Art History
Advisor: Dr. Melissa Rizzo Weller & Dr. Denise Bostdorff

The purpose of this study was to complete an analysis of children’s literature on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Specifically, I analyze My Friend with Autism, Andy and His Yellow Frisbee, and Nathan’s Autism Spectrum Superpowers. To complete my study, I conducted a visual and rhetorical analysis to find the positive and negative aspects in each book. To determine whether the criteria for positive and negative aspects I used past scholarly information on disability in children’s literature. I analyze each book individually as well as a collective group of works to compare and contrast the components. One implication is all three children in the story had some sort of a protector to help them along while also shielding them from others. Based on my findings I constructed a children’s book about ASD with the positive aspects from my analysis. My book strives to bridge the gap to be inclusive for both children with and or without ASD.


Kayla will be online to field comments on April 16: Noon-2 pm EDT (PST 9am-11am, Africa/Europe: early evening)

29 thoughts on “A Whole Other World to See: A Rhetorical and Visual Analysis of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children’s Literature”

  1. Nice work Kayla. Congratulations. What were some of the visual themes you found in the books? How did you decide on those three books?

    1. Thank you Professor Johnson! All three book used cartoon characters instead of real people. Two of the books used bright color while the other did not. I choose the three books based on the idea of one book representing a high-functioning child, low-functioning, and a middle ground between the two.

  2. Kayla, it was so cool to see how this project and your book came together from its very early beginnings in Junior IS. Congratulations!

    1. Thank you Professor Bostdorff! My project would not be what it is without your guidance along the way. I appreciate everything you did for me.

  3. Congratulations, Kayla! This body of work is so important…your work can influence the lives of families!

  4. Congrats Kayla!! It’s wild to think we started in FYS, and finished with the same IS advisor. Your IS is super interesting and I think it’s cool that you even wrote your own children’s book. You should be very proud.

  5. Kayla, congratulations on completing this major milestone. It will be so cool to look back on your successes at the College of Wooster, when you move on to your next adventure. We will miss you!

  6. Amazing job Kayla! What a creative project. It has been great seeing your IS process all the way through, starting in Junior IS and ending today, congratulations!

  7. Congratulations again, Kayla! Your book is so important and this work is vital for a better understanding of how we communicate about ASD and with people who have ASD. Celebrate your success!

    1. Thank you Professor Weller! I appreciate everything you have done to help me with my IS!

  8. You’re very kind. I enjoyed having you in class and being able to serve as second reader for your IS.

  9. Congrats Kayla on completing I.S.! You included the notation that all three books were about boys, were they also the same race? If so, what does that mean for the representation of autism? Additionally, how did you choose these books? For example, did you come across any books where the characters were autism-coded or autistic but it was not the driving plot or purpose of the book? It seems that in an attempt to add representation, authors have also created a separate genre or subgenre rather than integration. Lastly, I’ve read some about how autistic people don’t really like the categorization of ‘low functioning’ and ‘high functioning.’ Did this play out at all in the books you looked at? Ooops, sorry that’s a lot of questions. It’s just such an important and fascinating topic.

    1. Thank you Marloes! They were all caucasian. When I was deciding books there was some on other races. I think race is not widely covered enough in books about ASD. I wanted my book choices to have a book that the child was high-functioning, low-functioning, and somewhere in the middle. I could then see the correlations between the groups. All of the books were designed to focus on ASD, but one did stray from the topic. I did comment on the terms used. I find it hard to use different categorizing terms. I tried to identify what the terms mean to me and what symptoms I considered to be apart of the categories. The one book did use these terms to explain to the reader about their ASD particularly. Thank you for the questions!

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