Date of Conferral







Denise Horton


Ample research has examined the impact of autism for children and families, but less has addressed the effects of this condition for adults. The literature indicates that adults on the autism spectrum suffer from depression and have a heightened risk of suicidal ideation because of their social skills deficits. Research also shows that individuals with high-functioning autism (HFA) can benefit from participating in support groups. In addition, research indicates that use of the term "neurodiversity" rather than other diagnostic labels encourages increased self-esteem to persons on the autism spectrum. This grounded theory study sought to understand the belief of clinicians with regard to the incorporation of the concept of neurodiversity in support groups for adults with HFA. The population for this study comprised clinicians who led support groups for adults with HFA. The specific foundational theories used were Tuckman's stage model of group development and Salzer's peer support model. Data consisted of 3 pilot study interviews and 12 additional interviews. Participant recruitment occurred through LinkedIn, and interviews took place online through the chat modality GoToMeeting. Interview data were entered into NVivo and a Van Kaam coding procedure was used to decipher recurring themes. Key results indicated that clinicians believe that the incorporation of the concept of neurodiversity can help adults with autism to build self-esteem and change the way individuals with HFA consider the condition, which in turn can assist them to build social skills, and relationships with their peers. Positive social change that may result from this study includes encouragement for increased use of the concept of neurodiversity as a tool in support groups for people with HFA, and stimulation of further study of this concept for decreasing bias against those with HFA.

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