Parent-identified strengths of autistic youth

Autism. 2020 Aug 5;1362361320945556. doi: 10.1177/1362361320945556. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Autism is a condition frequently characterized by social and communication challenges. Because most research focuses on understanding and reducing challenges, less is known about the strengths of autistic individuals. This is especially true of those who are transitioning into adulthood. We designed this research study to provide information about how parents perceive the strengths of their autistic adolescent children prior to the transition. We reviewed 39 parent interviews from previous research about how they prepare their autistic sons and daughters for adulthood. Without prompting, parents identified many strengths of their autistic children. Diverse strengths and skills they identified included intelligence, creativity, physical abilities, and self-care skills. These strengths are interesting, as they cover traits that are often thought of as areas of difficulty for autistic youth. However, parents also talked about strengths alongside challenges, and how specific supports would be needed to help their sons and daughters fully realize their strengths. These findings are important, as they help us know more about the strengths of autistic youth and how strengths can be supported when preparing for adulthood. Our findings also help reveal strengths that are particularly apparent during the transition to adulthood.

Keywords: adolescents; autism spectrum disorders; autistic advantage; neurodiversity; parents; strengths; thematic analysis; transition.