Advisor

Katherine McDonald

Date of Award

1-1-2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Psychology

Department

Psychology

Physical Description

1 online resource (viii, 187 pages)

Subjects

Autistic community, Autistic identity, Community based participatory research, Online Autistic community, Participatory action research, Sense of community, Autism spectrum disorders -- Social aspects, Autistic people -- Social networks, Online social networks, Identity (Psychology), Social groups, Public health -- Research -- Citizen participation

DOI

10.15760/etd.627

Abstract

The values of the disability rights movement and community psychology promote research that focuses on improving the lives of individuals with disabilities (Dowrick & Keys, 2001). Using the Internet for social interactions has been shown to contribute to an individual's identity development, sense of community, and well-being (Obst, Zinkiewicz, & Smith, 2002a; Turkle, 1995). While challenges in typical social interactions have traditionally been considered a defining feature of autism spectrum disorder, autistic individuals have taken advantage of the Internet to develop social interactions (Blume, 1997a). The present study focused on the online Autistic community and how the importance and value of involvement in it is related to Autistic identity, sense of community, and psychological well-being. The Academic Autistic Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education (AASPIRE) partnered with the Gernsbacher Lab to form the Gateway Project. Using the Gateway Project, AASPIRE conducted the Internet Use, Community, and Well-Being Study and collected data from 72 autistic adults online. It was hypothesized that the importance and value of involvement in the online Autistic community would be positively related to Autistic identity and sense of community, Autistic identity and sense of community would be positively related, and Autistic identity and sense of community would be positively related to psychological well-being. It was also hypothesized that the positive relationship between the importance and value of involvement in the online Autistic community and psychological well-being would be mediated by Autistic identity and sense of community. Correlations were examined among the hypothesized relationships, and a mediated regression model (Baron & Kenny, 1986) was used to explore the relationship between the importance and value of involvement in the online Autistic community and psychological well-being with Autistic identity and sense of community as mediators. Significant relationships were found between the importance and value of involvement in the online Autistic community and Autistic identity, between the importance and value of involvement in the online Autistic community and sense of community, and between autistic identity and sense of community. As a first step to test the mediated regression models, psychological well-being was regressed on the importance and value of involvement in the online Autistic community. The regression was not significant; therefore the hypothesized model was not significant. Despite non-significant mediated regression model results, significant relationships among the importance and value of involvement in the online Autistic community and Autistic identity and sense of community offer important results. These finding illuminate the potential positive impact of the importance and value of involvement in the online Autistic community, including evidence counter to the myth that autistic individuals lack skills necessary for social relationships. These findings support the positive utility of involvement in the online Autistic community for autistic adults. Further research with a larger sample size is recommended, due to low power coefficients in the analyses. Additional research may also further illuminate the findings of the current study. Possible topics may include sense of community and Autistic identity in individuals that do not use the Internet, differences in the way the Internet is used in autistic individuals, and different measures of involvement in the online Autistic community and well-being.

Description

Appendix D was removed November 2014 per a request from Ursinus College and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Persistent Identifier

http://archives.pdx.edu/ds/psu/8110

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