Graduation Date

5-2016

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Occupational Therapy

Department or Program

Occupational Therapy

Department or Program Chair

Ruth Ramsey, Ed.D, OTR/L

First Reader

Susan Schwartz, MPA, OTR/L, FAOTA

Abstract

This qualitative study examined the perceived outcomes of participation at Autistry Studios among young adult students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Autistry Studios is a unique program offering services to individuals with ASD similar to that of a pre-vocational training program. The mission of Autistry Studios is to help students with ASD become independent adults by engaging in “project-based therapy.” A setting is provided where individuals with ASD can achieve personal and functional growth with the use of creative resources like art supplies, raw materials, and power tools to pursue and complete a project that is client-centered. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between attendance at Autistry Studios and improvement in areas of independent living.

Participants were selected using purposive and convenience sampling methods. The results describe the key themes that emerged from semi-structured interviews of three types of stakeholders (participants with ASD, their workshop mentors, and their primary caregivers). The researchers used framework analysis to reveal consistent themes of improvement in five areas: executive functioning, socialization, self-esteem, independence, and self-regulation. These areas are essential to workplace functioning, suggesting that participation in Autistry Studios leads to a scaffolding of skills required in a modern workplace. Results also suggest the principles and practices of Autistry Studios and “project-based therapy” are consistent with occupational therapy theory and practice due to a focus of hands-on participation in functional tasks as observed by the embedded researchers. The methods utilized at Autistry Studios could help occupational therapists modify treatment programs to better benefit clients with ASD.