Brief Report: Social Behavior and Special Interests in the Stigmatization of Autistic College Students


Autistic people, by definition, differ in social behavior from non-autistic individuals. One characteristic common to many autistic people is a special interest in a particular topic—something spoken about with such frequency and intensity that it may be stigmatized by non-autistic peers. We investigated college students’ interest in interacting with peers described as behaving in ways characteristic of autism (or not), and additionally described as having a special interest (or not). As expected, autistic characters were more stigmatized, but autistic characters with a special interest were not more stigmatized than those without. Only among non-autistic characters was having a special interest associated with greater stigmatization. Findings give further insight into factors influencing the stigmatization of autistic college students.

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders