Abstract

Sense of belonging refers to the degree to which individuals feel included, accepted, and supported by others in a variety of social settings. This study, based on the narratives of two females (ages 26 and 29) with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), examines sense of belonging and various life transition issues that may appear throughout childhood, adolescence, and adulthood in the absence of appropriate social supports. Hearing the voices of females with autism is important, because the number of girls diagnosed with ASD has grown. Women on the spectrum can potentially provide significant insights into the services required to feel a sense of belonging to society. Qualitative analysis of semi-structured interviews and document data revealed that a lack of social support can increase the number of transitions and cause biases in forming a sense of belonging. The findings suggest that a sense of belonging can fade or simmer (evolving through a person's life), and that providing social assistance and positive life experiences during emerging adulthood (ages 18-25) seems to matter most in forming a strong sense of belonging. The narrative accounts of the participants hypothetically suggest that adapting one's behavior in order to feel a sense of belonging might be associated with hiding the unique characteristics of one's ASD. The findings also highlight the need to develop social supports and make these more visible to individuals with ASD, as well as to the entire community. More specific practical implications are discussed.

You do not currently have access to this content.