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Literacy Lab

Literacy Lab

Collaborative research practices, to understand and improve children and young people's literacy experiences and outcomes

Neurodiversity and Narrative Fiction


Stories often reflect the social world we live in, and can enrich our understanding of ourselves and others.  Adolescence is a period of life characterised by exploration of identity and discovery of self; books offer opportunities for young people to explore personally meaningful content.

Research focusing on inclusive representation in young people’s literature has focused almost entirely on racial and ethnic representation. This study will be the first to provide detailed insight into neurodivergent young people’s perceptions of how their lives and experiences are represented in narrative fiction (and other text types), with neurodivergent young people informing our research process.


Project Aims:

To understand the scale and breadth of representation of neurodivergent young people in fictional texts for secondary school readers.

To understand neurodivergent young people’s opinions and experiences of representation of neurodivergence in narrative fiction.


Project methodology:

Read a summary of how we carried out the research here: Neurodiversity and Narrative Fiction preregistration.


Project Findings:

Database of YA books featuring neurodivergent characters

Please note: the database search finished in May 2023; any books published after this date will not be recorded.
When referencing this website database, please cite: Santi, E., Webber, C , McGeown S, and the Neurodiversity and Narrative Fiction project team. (2024).  Fiction Books for Teenagers featuring Neurodivergent Characters.  University of Edinburgh Literacy Lab.

Interviews with neurodivergent young people

The project findings capture neurodivergent young people’s perspectives on how they think neurodivergence should be represented in YA fiction. For example, that fictional neurodivergent characters should be complex, realistic, and positive, and that the representation of neurodivergence should be normalised in books and other forms of media. These findings are currently available as a pre-print here: Representation of neurodivergence in fiction books: Exploring neurodivergent young peoples’ perspectives.

The project findings also capture neurodivergent young people’s perspectives on the benefits and potential harms of neurodivergent representation in YA fiction. Benefits included supporting self-understanding and acceptance; facilitating positive emotional experiences; and reducing stigma and increasing peer understanding of neurodivergence. Potential harms included reinforcing negative stereotypes and changes in peers’ behaviour. These findings are currently available as a pre-print here: Representation in fiction books: Neurodivergent young people’s perceptions of the benefits and potential harms.


Quick summaries


This project is funded by a University of Edinburgh Challenge Investment Fund. To learn more about the project you can contact Sarah McGeown:


Project Team:

Project Lead: Dr Sarah McGeown

Project Researchers: Elena Santi and Charlotte Webber

Co-investigators: Dr Katie Cebula, Dr Catherine Crompton and Professor Sue Fletcher-Watson


Project Partners:

Christina Clark, National Literacy Trust

Ruthann Hughes, BookTrust

Katie Juckes, Teacher

Lucy Juckes, Barrington Stoke

Eadaoin Lynch, Scottish Book Trust

Emily Weston, Teacher

Victoria Williamson, Author


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