Understanding the social experiences of adolescent females on the autism spectrum



Publication Details

Vine Foggo, R. S. & Webster, A. A. (2017). Understanding the social experiences of adolescent females on the autism spectrum. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 35 74-85.


Background: Adolescent females with autism spectrum disorder often face numerous challenges when socially interacting with their same-sex peers. This is an area previously unconsidered in empirical research, due in part to the predominance of males with ASD. However, female teenage relationships constitute a unique culture, necessitating specific social skills. For the adolescent girl on the autism spectrum, varying degrees of difficulties with social communication and social relationships may result in unique perceptions regarding friendships with other girls. Method: Utilising a phenomenological approach, an inductive thematic approach was used to analyse the self-described accounts of social experiences and expectations, by adolescent females on the autism spectrum. Results: Through written accounts and interviews, participants revealed both a desire for, and a mature understanding of the characteristics of both friendships and best friend relationships. Participants all reported conflict with peers, and had more difficulty ascertaining the expectations of peers or socialising in groups. Conclusions: Findings: from this study contradicts stereotypes that people on the autism spectrum are not capable of developing quality friendships. The participants in this study engage in quality relationships with their female peers, but also require time to de-stress and pursue their own interests. The information disclosed by the participants in this study facilitates an understanding of the social experiences and perceptions of social expectations of adolescent females with ASD, as a unique and often unrecognised phenomenon.

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