Autism Attitude and Acceptance Scale (AAAS): A Scale Development and Validation

Poster Presentation
Thursday, May 2, 2019: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Room: 710 (Palais des congres de Montreal)
S. Y. Kim, Lynch School of Education, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA
Background: Previous studies on attitudes toward ASD have examined neurotypical individuals’ openness to (Neville & White, 2011), stigmatizing of (Harrison et al., 2017), and awareness of (Gillespie­Lynch et al. 2015) ASD. This study proposes autism acceptance as a new construct to be studied and measured. The concept of autism acceptance, which emerged from autistic advocacy and the neurodiversity movement, contends that autistic individuals do not need to be cured but should be appreciated for who they are as they are (Sinclair, 1999). While autism advocates are increasingly emphasizing the difference between being aware of autistic differences and acceptance of autism (Kassiane, 2012), there is currently no validated measure for assessing neurotypical individuals’ autism acceptance.

Objectives: The purpose of this study was to develop a valid and reliable self­report instrument to measure neurotypical adults’ acceptance of autistic individuals.

Methods: From an extensive review of the existing literature of autism attitude and neurodiveristy, the 30 items Autism Attitude and Acceptance Scale (AAAS) were newly drafted. Two professors, eight doctoral students, and a female autistic adult were involved in developing the initial 21 pilot items, which were administered online via Qualtrics. Professors at a Jesuit university in the United States shared the link to the survey with their students. Also, the link was posted on the investigator’s SNS. The final sample included 120 neurotypical adults (Table 1). After reading a brief description of ASD, participants completed AAAS first. Subsequently, existing ASD attitude measures, quality and quantity of previous contact measures, and an ASD knowledge measure were administered in a random order. All items within each measure also were randomly ordered. Finally, participants completed a demographic questionnaire. The full list of instruments administered is presented in Table 2. Principal component analysis and reliability analysis were conducted to optimize the structural and psychometric properties of the measure. DeVeills’ (1991) guidelines for survey development were applied. Pearson’s r correlations and one­way ANOVA were employed to examine the relations between AAAS and conceptually related variables.

Results: The AAAS yielded two subscales, scored on a 5­point scale: Beliefs about Autistic Symptoms (BAS) and General Acceptance (GA). Lower scores on the 3­item BAS indicate participants strongly believed the reduction of autistic symptom would benefit autistic individuals. Higher scores on the 14­item GA indicate higher levels of willingness to offer support or consideration of autistic individuals as equals. While the mean score of the BAS was 2.05 (SD =0.8), that of GA was 3.63 (SD =0.91). Also, 67.5% of participants agreed, “Autism is a unique way of being that should be appreciated” (an item from GA), but 74.2% of participants also agreed “it is important for researchers and doctors to devote resources to find a cure for autism” (an item from BAS). Table 2 reports the association between the AAAS and existing measures of ASD attitude, ASD knowledge, previous contact, and demographic factors.

Conclusions: The AAAS could complement existing tools to identify modifiable variables of higher acceptance and target biased societal conceptions to promote a greater appreciation of autistic differences.