Parent Perceptions of Self-Determination for Adolescents with ASD
Objectives: The primary objectives of the present study were to document parents’ awareness of the concept of self-determination and examine ratings of child self-determination skills. A further objective was to preliminarily examine variables associated with self-determination, including child age, degree of school inclusion, and parent familiarity with self-determination.
Methods: Data for the present study came from an anonymous online survey distributed to parents through the mailing list of a university-affiliated autism center. Parents completed demographic questions and measures assessing child self-determination. Parent perceptions of child self-determination were assessed using the AIR Self-Determination Scale (Wolman et al., 1994) and a set of questions regarding self-determination component skills developed by Carter et al. (2013).
Results: Survey participants included 56 parents with a child between the ages of 11 and 21 (M = 15.6, SD = 2.7) diagnosed with ASD by a pediatrician, psychologist, or other specialist. (See Table 1 for demographic information.) Nearly one third (30%) of parents reported that they were not at all familiar with the concept of self-determination; 50% reported that they were somewhat familiar; and 20% indicated that they were very familiar with the concept. Most parents rated each self-determination component skill to be very important, but less than 20% indicated that their children performed any of the self-determination skills very well (See Table 2). Multiple linear regression was used to examine predictors of parents’ ratings of child self-determination on the AIR Self-Determination Scale. Child age, degree of inclusion in integrated school settings, and parent familiarity with self-determination were entered as predictors. The full model was significant (F = 5.06, p < .01) and accounted for 24% of the variance in global self-determination ratings. Only degree of inclusion emerged as a significant predictor (t = 3.69, p < .01), with higher self-determination ratings for youth who spent more time in integrated educational settings (r = .48, p < .01).
Conclusions: Though self-determination skills are increasingly identified as important for youth with ASD, nearly one third of parents in the current study were unfamiliar with the concept. Consistent with prior research, parents rated self-determination skills as important for their children but indicated that their children did not perform the skills well as present. Future research should continue to examine potential predictors of self-determination for adolescents with ASD.