What Contributes to Stigma Towards Autistic University Students and Students with Other Diagnoses?

J Autism Dev Disord. 2020 Jun 5;1-17. doi: 10.1007/s10803-020-04556-7. Online ahead of print.


Little remains known about the degree to which autistic university students are stigmatized relative to students with other diagnoses. We conducted an online survey with students in New York City (n = 633) and Beirut (n = 274). Students with diagnoses that were perceived as dangerous (e.g., psychopathy) were more stigmatized than students with diagnoses that were perceived as less dangerous (e.g., autism). Disruptive autistic behaviors (described via vignettes) evoked more stigma than withdrawn behaviors. Perceived dangerousness predicted autism stigma. Greater acceptance of inequality, less openness, and lower cognitive empathy co-occurred with heightened stigma towards most conditions. Diagnostic labels were typically less stigmatized than behaviors. Findings suggest that interventions are needed to decrease stigma towards varied diagnoses in collegiate communities.

Keywords: ADHD; Autism; College; Empathy; Learning disability; Neurodiversity; Stigma; University.