Presentation Title

The Experience of Being an Adult with Autism Spectrum Disorder Who Identifies as a Sexual Minority Orientation

Time

9:00 AM

Location

Silver Maple Ballroom - Health Sciences

Abstract

Background: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is present in 1.7% of the population. Previous studies show that as many as 70% of those with ASD identify as sexual minorities, such as, gay, lesbian, and asexual. While ASD and sexual minority orientation have been individually correlated with social isolation, depression and suicidal ideation, there are currently no studies that explore the experiences of individuals who identify with both of these marginalized groups.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experiences of adults with ASD who identify as sexual minority orientations (SMO).

Methods (Design, Participants, Setting, Data Collection, Analytical Approach) Descriptive phenomenology was used to explore the meaning of this phenomenon. Participants were 67 adults formally or self diagnosed with ASD who identified as SMO. Participants were recruited via online message boards and interviewed asynchronously via an online platform. Colaizzi’s seven-step method for data analysis was utilized.

Results: Six themes emerged from the data. Themes included: self acceptance of ASD diagnosis, SMO or both is a continual journey; sexuality and ASD affected each other since these interplayed in formulating identity; concern about finding mutually satisfying relationships; inability to communicate needs or desires in relationships; feeling misunderstood by family, friends, potential partners, ASD and LGBT communities and misunderstanding others’ intentions and societal “norms”; and feeling like ASD affected sexual desire (e.g. sensory overload during sex).

Conclusions & Implications: Some characteristics of ASD, such as struggling to form relationships and feeling isolated and ostracized are only increased by the presence of a SMO. In practice, nurses should screen for feelings of isolation and suicidality, as well as for signs of abuse in relationships, as this is a high risk population. Education can be implemented in order to teach effective communication strategies specifically for sex and relationships. Future studies should explore interventions to expedite the self acceptance process, such as counseling.

Primary Faculty Mentor Name

Laura Foran Lewis PhD RN

Status

Undergraduate

Student College

College of Nursing and Health Sciences

Program/Major

Nursing

Primary Research Category

Health Sciences

Secondary Research Category

Social Sciences

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The Experience of Being an Adult with Autism Spectrum Disorder Who Identifies as a Sexual Minority Orientation

Background: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is present in 1.7% of the population. Previous studies show that as many as 70% of those with ASD identify as sexual minorities, such as, gay, lesbian, and asexual. While ASD and sexual minority orientation have been individually correlated with social isolation, depression and suicidal ideation, there are currently no studies that explore the experiences of individuals who identify with both of these marginalized groups.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experiences of adults with ASD who identify as sexual minority orientations (SMO).

Methods (Design, Participants, Setting, Data Collection, Analytical Approach) Descriptive phenomenology was used to explore the meaning of this phenomenon. Participants were 67 adults formally or self diagnosed with ASD who identified as SMO. Participants were recruited via online message boards and interviewed asynchronously via an online platform. Colaizzi’s seven-step method for data analysis was utilized.

Results: Six themes emerged from the data. Themes included: self acceptance of ASD diagnosis, SMO or both is a continual journey; sexuality and ASD affected each other since these interplayed in formulating identity; concern about finding mutually satisfying relationships; inability to communicate needs or desires in relationships; feeling misunderstood by family, friends, potential partners, ASD and LGBT communities and misunderstanding others’ intentions and societal “norms”; and feeling like ASD affected sexual desire (e.g. sensory overload during sex).

Conclusions & Implications: Some characteristics of ASD, such as struggling to form relationships and feeling isolated and ostracized are only increased by the presence of a SMO. In practice, nurses should screen for feelings of isolation and suicidality, as well as for signs of abuse in relationships, as this is a high risk population. Education can be implemented in order to teach effective communication strategies specifically for sex and relationships. Future studies should explore interventions to expedite the self acceptance process, such as counseling.