‘Just trying to talk to people … It’s the hardest’: Perspectives of adolescents with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder on their social communication skills
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Kelly, Rachel, O’Malley, Mary-Pat, & Antonijevic, Stanislava. (2018). ‘Just trying to talk to people … It’s the hardest’: Perspectives of adolescents with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder on their social communication skills. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 34(3), 319-334. doi: 10.1177/0265659018806754
Difficulty with social communication is the most pervasive difficulty experienced by individuals with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (HF-ASD). Communication difficulties are often magnified in adolescence as social demands become more intricate. This puts adolescents with HF-ASD at increased risk of social isolation and depression, as they have difficulty developing positive social identity. Yet, there is a dearth of literature addressing the communication issues of this population and even fewer studies including the voice of adolescents with HF-ASD themselves. This study aimed to: 1) Explore the perspectives of adolescents with HF-ASD as to their social communication skills, 2) Explore what (if any) difficulties they perceive themselves as having when talking with their peers, 3) Explore if they would like help with social communication skills and 4) Determine what kind of help they think may be useful to them and establish if they already use self-initiated strategies. This study was qualitative in nature, using thematic analysis to analyse data collected from 10 semi-structured interviews with 5 adolescents with HF-ASD. Three themes emerged revealing the participants perceptions of their difficulties communicating, challenging feelings that they experience about communication, and their perspectives about the support for developing communication skills. The participants indicated a need for support to aid their desire to improve communication skills and interactions with typically developing peers. In educational settings, adolescents with HF-ASD may benefit from a peer mentor system to give them opportunities to practice social communication skills with typically developing peers and to encourage inclusion amongst their classmates.
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