Autism in Irish print news media

(see the update to this post

News media both reflect and shape perceptions about autism. As an overview of the portrayal of autism in the news, I have searched for articles about autism and provide a downloadable data file of the references with some categories that also appear in the article. Any feedback on making the file useful to other people would be most welcome. Please note that the text of the articles is not included.

Source material

Articles “about” autism for these purposes are any articles returned by the search engine (Proquest) with the keywords “autism”, “autistic” or “Asperger”, which includes any phrases with those keywords and any articles tagged with those terms. This may include articles that are not strictly “about” autism and only include the word, but is unlikely to exclude articles of interest.

For my own purposes I am starting with the Irish Examiner (available for the years 2001-2015). Other available sources are:

  • The Times (4000 items from 1992-2015)
  • Nature (542 items from 1990-2014)
  • Irish Examiner (925 items from 2001-2105)

I can process all of these with the same method, generating consistent and comparable data files for each.


My personal interest is in comparing publications in Irish print media with, for instance, the age and gender issues raised by Jennifer Stevenson ( The categories are created with a list of discrete words and word-variants, e.g. “boy/boys” or “parent/parents/parenting/parenthood”. These should indicate the age (child or adult) and gender content of the articles, although it would be necessary to read and check who the word “adult” refers to in order to know that age group of the autistic subject – I have not done this. Because the search material is the text of newspaper articles there will be a large element of inconsistency and missing data – for instance it would not be effective to attempt to extract the actual age in years.

Data file

The tagged columns are “autism”, “Asperger”, “child” (and “boy” / “girl”), “adult” (“man” / “woman”), “parent” (“father” / “mother”). Each column contains the number of times that the category word(s) appear so totalling the column counts the number of times the words appear. You could calculate a new column (true/false) if you wished to count the number of articles containing the word(s) instead.

The data file contains the publication year and a full reference. The author’s name was usually missing.

The data file for the Irish Examiner (2001-2015) is

Some references: