Autistic teens are vulnerable to sharp declines in social connections and a marked increase in depression, anxiety, and other co-occurring conditions (Cassidy et al., 2014; Rudacille, 2017). While there are intervention options available for autistic children, availability of community services and supports wane by adolescence. Moreover, autistic youth rarely experience critical relationships with caring adults who are also autistic. Without adequate guidance and role modeling, adolescents are at risk for thwarted development and negative life trajectories. This proof-of-concept project is a feasibility and pilot study of the Autism Mentorship Program (AMP), a youth mentoring program that pairs autistic teens and adults in one-to-one relationships.
Aim 1: To determine uptake, degree of execution, ease of delivery, and barriers/facilitators associated with quality of implementation.
Aim 2: To examine to potential impact of AMP on quality of the mentoring relationship, and pre- and post-test changes on targeted outcomes (i.e., quality of life, socio-emotional health, self-esteem, and social connectedness of autistic adolescents and adults).
Upon successful completion, we will have validated the feasibility and promise of AMP. If expected results are realized, this project will provide necessary pilot data to seek funding to optimize the intervention and subject it to rigorous testing. This study can be expected to have a significant impact on the advancement of theory related to whether and how autistic individuals can form mentoring relationships and on the systematic development of AMP as an evidenced-based program.
Project team: Lindsey Weiler, Rebekah Hudock, and Emily Goldberg
The benefits of community participation among people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have been well documented across all age groups. They include enhanced physical and mental wellbeing, social inclusion, independence, self-worth, and quality of life. Research, however, is limited with respect to individual characteristics that predict the extent to which some individuals with ASD partake in such activities and why others do not. Additionally, most investigations of adult participation in community activities have based their conclusions on retrospective recall of the frequency and types of leisure activities outside of the participant’s leisure environment. Traditional methods of data collection of this type are subject to inaccuracies and biases, which are likely to be particularly heightened in research involving participants with ASD. This proposal reduces such recall and other biases by using ecological momentary assessment (EMA) methods, which collect “real-time” data within a participant’s natural environment. To address these gaps, a pilot longitudinal study will be conducted to implement an EMA data collection system via a smartphone with a community-based sample of adults with ASD who live independently. The specific aims of this project are to:
- Better understand the patterns of leisure activity (e.g., breadth and depth) in which adults with ASD who live independently engage;
- Examine the bi-directional relationship between levels of participation in leisure activity and perceived stress, anxiety, and self-regulation skills as well as how this may be moderated by specific personal characteristics/factors (e.g., co-occurring intellectual disability, trauma experiences); and
- Test the usability/utility feasibility of using EMA in research pertaining to adults with ASD.
Project team: Renata Ticha, Wei Song, Viann Nguyen-Feng, and Brian Abery