The many faces of Asperger syndrome: A study of the education, employment and intimate relationship experiences of adults with Asperger syndrome in South Australia

Author: Matthew Bennett

Bennett, Matthew, 2016 The many faces of Asperger syndrome: A study of the education, employment and intimate relationship experiences of adults with Asperger syndrome in South Australia, Flinders University, School of Health Sciences

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Abstract

Asperger syndrome is a condition characterised by limited social abilities, repetitive patterns of behaviour, limited motor movement abilities, sensory sensitivities, a restricted set of interests, compulsive and ritualised behaviour, and verbal communication limitations. People with this syndrome are considered to occupy the higher functioning section of the autism spectrum of disorders. Despite having average to above average intelligence, they typically exhibit a limited awareness of common social understandings and a lack of ability to pick up on social cues. Despite the vast and growing amount of literature about the autism spectrum, there has been a relatively small amount of research conducted on the lived experiences of adults with Asperger syndrome. Previous research has tended to focus on the experiences of children and their parents. This study seeks to address this gap by focusing on examining the lived experiences of adults with Asperger syndrome. More specifically, this research provides insights into their views and experiences of education, employment, depression and suicidal ideation, parenting and intimate relationships. Twenty-one adults with Asperger syndrome from AutismSA or Community Bridging Services participated in this study. Drawing inspiration from phenomenology, this qualitative study used phenomenological elements to present the participants’ views and experiences. Each participant attended two in-depth interview sessions. During the first interview session they were asked to describe their experiences of living with Asperger syndrome and attending school. During the second interview session they were asked about their experiences and views of employment and intimate relationships. Each interview session was transcribed verbatim and then thematically analysed. An important contribution of this study to the literature is the application of Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development to the lived experiences of adults with Asperger syndrome. This theory provides a conceptual framework for understanding how the growth and development of adults with Asperger syndrome can be influenced by their opinions and experiences. For example, this study explains how the participants’ job interview experiences have influenced their ability to find employment and their sense of identity and value to the community. In addition, this study proposes a series of recommendations aimed at promoting better opportunities in the future lifespan development of people with Asperger syndrome.

Keywords: Adults, Asperger syndrome, Education, Employmnt, Intimate Relationships
Subject: Disability Studies thesis, Health Sciences thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2016
School: School of Health Sciences
Supervisor: Dr. Brian Matthews