Presentation Title

Lived Experience of Shutdowns in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Presenter's Name(s)

Kailey Stevens, UVMFollow

Time

1:00 PM

Location

Silver Maple Ballroom - Health Sciences

Abstract

This study explored the experience of having a shutdown in adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Though literature shows that meltdowns are distressing for children and their parents, there are no studies that explore this experience for adults with ASD. In addition, anecdotal evidence suggests that many adults experience “shutdowns,” which are defined as uncontrolled reactions to stress that may result in catatonic, unresponsive, and/or expressionless individuals. Information regarding shutdowns will help ASD individuals and nurses to better support, provide coping mechanisms, and guidance for proper resources available for mental health. The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experience of shutdowns in adults with ASD. The experience of meltdowns was also explored but was determined to be distinctly different phenomenon, explored in a separate analysis. Descriptive phenomenology was used. The data collection of this qualitative study used online interviews with recruitment via online forums and message boards for adults with ASD totaling 33 participants. Following Colaizzi’s (1978) method for analysis, transcripts of the data were read line by line to identify “significant statements” regarding to the phenomenon of meltdowns/shutdowns. The significant statements were used to conclude themes from the data provided. After the themes were recognized, the researcher will present them back to the participants for validation of the gathered themes.

Different presentations and manifestations between individuals may exist, however, eight themes were extracted from the data. The event begins with precipitating social/sensory stressors that increase negative feelings. This may cause the person to hit a threshold where he loses control and experiences the inability to respond, desire to escape/be alone, and strives to focus on survival and basic needs. Removal from the situation may be an option for some individuals in order for them to regain control. Lastly, a recovery period/phase occurs. The research reveals shutdowns are real phenomenon experienced by individuals with ASD that cause a range of distress in a person’s life. Due to the nature of losing control of actions, thoughts, and feelings, nurses should prioritize safety for these individuals. Further research needs to be conducted examining how to maintain safety and well being for these individuals.

Primary Faculty Mentor Name

Laura Lewis, PhD, RN

Status

Undergraduate

Student College

College of Nursing and Health Sciences

Program/Major

Nursing

Primary Research Category

Health Sciences

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Lived Experience of Shutdowns in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

This study explored the experience of having a shutdown in adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Though literature shows that meltdowns are distressing for children and their parents, there are no studies that explore this experience for adults with ASD. In addition, anecdotal evidence suggests that many adults experience “shutdowns,” which are defined as uncontrolled reactions to stress that may result in catatonic, unresponsive, and/or expressionless individuals. Information regarding shutdowns will help ASD individuals and nurses to better support, provide coping mechanisms, and guidance for proper resources available for mental health. The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experience of shutdowns in adults with ASD. The experience of meltdowns was also explored but was determined to be distinctly different phenomenon, explored in a separate analysis. Descriptive phenomenology was used. The data collection of this qualitative study used online interviews with recruitment via online forums and message boards for adults with ASD totaling 33 participants. Following Colaizzi’s (1978) method for analysis, transcripts of the data were read line by line to identify “significant statements” regarding to the phenomenon of meltdowns/shutdowns. The significant statements were used to conclude themes from the data provided. After the themes were recognized, the researcher will present them back to the participants for validation of the gathered themes.

Different presentations and manifestations between individuals may exist, however, eight themes were extracted from the data. The event begins with precipitating social/sensory stressors that increase negative feelings. This may cause the person to hit a threshold where he loses control and experiences the inability to respond, desire to escape/be alone, and strives to focus on survival and basic needs. Removal from the situation may be an option for some individuals in order for them to regain control. Lastly, a recovery period/phase occurs. The research reveals shutdowns are real phenomenon experienced by individuals with ASD that cause a range of distress in a person’s life. Due to the nature of losing control of actions, thoughts, and feelings, nurses should prioritize safety for these individuals. Further research needs to be conducted examining how to maintain safety and well being for these individuals.