Examining the Strengths, Experiences, and Needs of Canadian Post-Secondary Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Pilot Study
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Post-secondary students with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) represent an underserved and underrepresented population in post-secondary environments and research. A study in the United Kingdom found that post-secondary students with ASD reported a higher frequency of thoughts about withdrawing from studies and difficulties with adjustment compared to other students. However, Canadian research exploring the experiences and needs of Autistic post-secondary students is limited. Additionally, few studies have reported the perspectives of post-secondary students on the autism spectrum directly. The purpose of this study was to develop and pilot a survey designed to examine the self-reported strengths, experiences, and needs of Canadian post-secondary students with ASD. The development of this survey was guided by steering committee members with relevant lived experiences. Pilot testing was conducted with a sample of 13 individuals who self-identified with ASD and had recently attended or were currently attending college or university in Ontario. This thesis was divided into three separate studies. Study 1 described an effective application of a participatory action research approach to develop a survey. Study 2 reported preliminary findings following pilot testing of the survey. Strengths reported by participants were mainly academic, while areas of limitation included social challenges and barriers within the post-secondary environment. Participants generally reported positive sentiments regarding services accessed. Study 3 described the process for gathering feedback for survey revision from pilot participants, which highlighted a preference for quantitative questions and provided suggestions for revision for future iterations of the survey. Recommendations for future research were discussed.