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Realizing the problem wasn’t necessarily me": The meaning of childhood adversity and resilience in the lives of autistic adults

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posted on 2021-10-28, 23:12 authored by Gabrielle A. HeseltonGabrielle A. Heselton, Gwen R. RempelGwen R. Rempel, David B Nicholas
Interview Data

There is ample evidence that childhood adversity correlates negatively with physical and mental health outcomes across the lifespan. Resilience results when internal and external protective factors in childhood mitigate the effects of adversity and mental and physical health outcomes are improved. However, the phenomena of childhood adversity and resilience among autistic children are understudied and not well understood. In this study, we engaged members of the autism community to advise on the research question, research design, and analysis. Following the engagement phase, three autistic young women and one nonbinary young adult, aged 19-27, participated in semi-structured interviews via phone, video conference, and online chat;. credibility checking interviews followed data analysis. Through interpretative phenomenological analysis we identified themes related to negative effects of adversity, including social disconnection, mental and emotional well-being, sense of self, and development into young adulthood. Resilience was developed in places of refuge and identity, and was evident in their transitions into young adulthood. These findings provide direction for fostering resilience in children and adolescents on the autism spectrum and planning and implementing mental health supports to autistic individuals across the lifespan.


Declaration of conflicts of interest


Corresponding author email

Lead author country

  • Canada

Lead author institution

Athabasca University

Human Participants

  • Yes

Ethics statement

Approved by Athabasca University Research Ethics Board site withheld, #23780

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