Reframing Autism: Young Adults With Autism Share Their Strengths Through Photo-Stories

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Abstract

Purpose:

A dearth of research describes the lives of young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) from the perspectives of young adults themselves. We explored young adults' strengths using Photovoice, a method in which participants use images and discussions to express themselves. Images were purposefully chosen to help young people participate in the research process.

Design and Methods:

Eleven young adults captured their experiences growing up with ASD via images, and participated in three group photo discussions, an individual photo interview, and a photo exhibit. Qualitative data for analysis included session transcripts and photographs. We used strategies of theme analysis to understand participants' experiences.

Results:

The mean age of the sample was 20 years, and 7 participants were male. Three sub-themes describe youth's strengths: 1) special interests that cultivated positive emotions and coping strategies; 2) skills and activities that evoked pride; and 3) reframing ASD as special versus a disadvantage.

Conclusions:

The Photovoice method is well-suited to help young adults identify and express their strengths. Self-generated images and stories may offer a creative and effective form of communication for young adults with ASD.

Practice Implications:

Health care practitioners can capitalize on how Photovoice helps young adults express themselves by using images to understand their health priorities and involve young adults in their care plans. With images of strength, for example, nurses can build young adults' confidence and help these individuals to identify areas of their mental and physical lives in which they can thrive and experience improved quality of life.

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