The current study sought to characterize implicit bias toward children with autism and examine whether viewing educational materials about autism would change attitudes toward children with autism. A website developed by Sesame Street containing information about autism and resources for families was distributed to parents of children with autism (n = 473) and parents of children without autism (n = 707). Pre- and post-test measures of implicit bias toward children with autism; explicit attitudes and knowledge about autism; and parenting confidence, strain, and stigma were completed before and after the website was presented. Results indicated that parents of children with autism showed less implicit bias compared with those of non-autistic children during the pre-test, but the groups did not differ at the post-test. Parents without autistic children and those with more negative explicit attitudes showed a greater reduction in implicit bias from the pre- to the post-test. In addition, for parents of children with autism, a more positive change in explicit attitudes and increased knowledge from the pre- to the post-test was associated with more empowerment at the post-test. Together, our findings suggest that the online educational resources can reduce implicit bias against children with autism and help mitigate some of the psychological issues associated with parenting children with autism.
Keywords: autism spectrum disorders; social cognition and social behavior.