Title

Poster Session - The occupations of adulthood: Perspectives from adolescents with autism spectrum disorder

Presenter Information

Anne V. Kirby, University of Utah

Location

New River Rooms A & B

Start Time

2-10-2015 8:00 PM

End Time

2-10-2015 9:00 PM

Abstract

Statement of Purpose

The purpose of this presentation is to contribute to an occupation-centered understanding of the transition to adulthood for youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in order to inform occupation-based interventions to support successful transitions to adulthood.

Methods

Eight adolescents with ASD (ages 12-17; 1 female) participated in semi-structured interviews in their homes on the topic of adulthood, focused on their perceptions of the occupational participation of adults. All participants had the capabilities to verbally respond to open-ended interview questions. Each adolescent’s parent completed questionnaires during the interviews and participated in their own interviews afterward (analyzed separately). In order to gain an understanding of perspectives from individuals in a broad range of situations, we recruited a diverse group in terms of race, household income, family structure, educational experiences, and level of functioning. Participants’ Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS; Constantino & Gruber, 2005) t-scores ranged from 65 to 117; four participants had autism severity scores in the mild to moderate range (60-75) and four in the severe range (>75). Interview questions focused on participants’ perspectives on the lives and occupations of adults in general, as well as what they expect for their own futures. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed using a systematic, iterative coding procedure (Coffey & Atkinson, 1996). Qualitative thematic coding focused on responding to two broad questions: “What do adults do?” and “How will you know when you are an adult?”

Results

For the first broad question—What do adults do?—analysis revealed three main themes: (1) Productivity; (2) Caring for Self and Others; and (3) Handling Difficult Situations. The adolescents described adults as being productive which included working and being able to pay for things, taking care of themselves and others, and being prepared and able to problem solve when difficult situations arise. Regarding the second question—How will you know when you are an adult?—two themes summarized the participants’ responses: (1) Age and Accomplishment; and (2) Maturity and Responsibility. Some participants explained that they would become adults once they reached a certain age (e.g. 18) or achieved certain accomplishments (e.g. graduation from high school or college). However, other participants emphasized that adulthood was not a function of age, but rather something that was earned by demonstrating maturity and responsibility, being able to make important decisions, and having the freedom to control one’s life.

Discussion/Implications

The findings of this study related to what adults do (i.e., occupations) provide potential avenues for occupation-based interventions that would be meaningful for youth with ASD (e.g., employment-based, money-management/purchasing, caring for self/others, problem-solving in context). Integration and translation of this knowledge to practice with this population could improve not only the occupational participation of adults with ASD, but also their own recognition of themselves as adults. Previous research in occupational science has identified the important relationship between occupations and identity in this population (Bagatell, 2007) and this study provides new insight into potential avenues for identity development through occupation to improve quality of life for individuals with ASD.

References

Key References

Bagatell, N. (2007). Orchestrating voices: Autism, identity and the power of discourse. Disability & Society, 22(4), 413-426.

Coffey, A., & Atkinson, P. (1996). Making sense of qualitative data: Complementary research strategies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

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Oct 2nd, 8:00 PM Oct 2nd, 9:00 PM

Poster Session - The occupations of adulthood: Perspectives from adolescents with autism spectrum disorder

New River Rooms A & B

Statement of Purpose

The purpose of this presentation is to contribute to an occupation-centered understanding of the transition to adulthood for youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in order to inform occupation-based interventions to support successful transitions to adulthood.

Methods

Eight adolescents with ASD (ages 12-17; 1 female) participated in semi-structured interviews in their homes on the topic of adulthood, focused on their perceptions of the occupational participation of adults. All participants had the capabilities to verbally respond to open-ended interview questions. Each adolescent’s parent completed questionnaires during the interviews and participated in their own interviews afterward (analyzed separately). In order to gain an understanding of perspectives from individuals in a broad range of situations, we recruited a diverse group in terms of race, household income, family structure, educational experiences, and level of functioning. Participants’ Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS; Constantino & Gruber, 2005) t-scores ranged from 65 to 117; four participants had autism severity scores in the mild to moderate range (60-75) and four in the severe range (>75). Interview questions focused on participants’ perspectives on the lives and occupations of adults in general, as well as what they expect for their own futures. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed using a systematic, iterative coding procedure (Coffey & Atkinson, 1996). Qualitative thematic coding focused on responding to two broad questions: “What do adults do?” and “How will you know when you are an adult?”

Results

For the first broad question—What do adults do?—analysis revealed three main themes: (1) Productivity; (2) Caring for Self and Others; and (3) Handling Difficult Situations. The adolescents described adults as being productive which included working and being able to pay for things, taking care of themselves and others, and being prepared and able to problem solve when difficult situations arise. Regarding the second question—How will you know when you are an adult?—two themes summarized the participants’ responses: (1) Age and Accomplishment; and (2) Maturity and Responsibility. Some participants explained that they would become adults once they reached a certain age (e.g. 18) or achieved certain accomplishments (e.g. graduation from high school or college). However, other participants emphasized that adulthood was not a function of age, but rather something that was earned by demonstrating maturity and responsibility, being able to make important decisions, and having the freedom to control one’s life.

Discussion/Implications

The findings of this study related to what adults do (i.e., occupations) provide potential avenues for occupation-based interventions that would be meaningful for youth with ASD (e.g., employment-based, money-management/purchasing, caring for self/others, problem-solving in context). Integration and translation of this knowledge to practice with this population could improve not only the occupational participation of adults with ASD, but also their own recognition of themselves as adults. Previous research in occupational science has identified the important relationship between occupations and identity in this population (Bagatell, 2007) and this study provides new insight into potential avenues for identity development through occupation to improve quality of life for individuals with ASD.