Self-Determination in Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Poster Presentation
Thursday, May 10, 2018: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hall Grote Zaal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
K. White1 and T. D. Flanagan2, (1)National University of Ireland, Galway, Galway, Ireland, (2)Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
Background: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifespan diagnosis impacting opportunities into adulthood. Self-determination (SD), which refers to the “volitional actions that enable one to act as the primary causal agent in one’s life and to maintain or improve one’s quality of life” (Wehmeyer, 2005, p. 177), has been associated with positive adult outcomes such as education, employment, and quality of life. However, information about SD for young adults with ASD (without intellectual disability (ID)), including the factors that may impact and promote its development into adulthood, is scarce.

Objectives: The aim of this study is to investigate the possible factors and predictors that explain the levels of SD of young Canadian adults with ASD (without ID) using an online survey. Self-reported facilitators and barriers to developing SD will also be reported.

Methods: Participants were 125 young Canadian adults with ASD without ID. Female (M = 23.81, SD = 3.85), male (M = 22.62, SD = 3.39), and transgender (M = 22.33 SD = 2.57) participants all ranged in age from 18 to 30 years (M = 23.15, SD = 3.65). All participants were retained in the sample if their AQ total score was at or above 26 (M = 33.46, SD = 5.82, range = 26 - 46). Participants were recruited widely across Canada via flyers and letters of invitations. The comprehensive online survey included descriptives and brief indicators of ASD and SD, including the Autism-Spectrum Quotient – Adult Version (AQ; Baron-Cohen et al., 2006) and Arc’s Self-Determination Scale (SDS; Wehmeyer & Kelchner, 1995).

Results: The reported SD levels differed in relation to age and education. Using a median split (median age = 23) to designate older and younger age categories, an independent samples t-test showed that older (M = 87.63, SD = 18.80) young adults reported higher levels of SD, based on the SDS, than younger (M = 78.38, SD = 19.04) adults, t (123) = -2.73, p = .007. In regards to education, SDS total score increased from junior high (M = 71.00, SD = 1.41) to partial college (M = 81.95, SD = 19.93), and college/university (M= 90.15, SD = 18.08), Welch’s F (5, 27.530) = 10.10, p < .001. However, level of SD did not significantly differ in relation to gender, living situation, or employment status. Further, a hierarchical multiple regression analysis indicated that a person’s age (β = .20, t (118) = 2.63, p = .01), capacity (β = .51 t (118) = .61, p <.01), and level of SD importance (β = .15, t (118) = 1.98, p = .05) significantly predicted level of SD, explaining 50.1% of the variance. Finally, SD skills, mental health, societal perceptions about disability, support networks, opportunities, and early educational and life experiences were reported common facilitators and barriers to developing SD.

Conclusions: The knowledge gained from this study will allow researchers and practitioners a better window into the factors and predictors of SD, and will highlight invaluable information concerning effective and individualized support services.