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Self-Determination of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review

Abstract

Although research shows that students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can develop abilities and skills associated with self-determination (e.g., decision making, problem solving, goal setting and attainment) when opportunities and supports are provided, students with ASD tend to show lower levels of self-determination compared to their peers without disabilities or with other disabilities. Researchers have suggested that common ASD characteristics may influence the development and expression of self-determination and that there may be less focus on self-determination and its development in ASD. Therefore, the aim of this review was to investigate existing studies that examined factors impacting the development of self-determination for students with ASD or implemented self-determination interventions with students with ASD. We reviewed existing empirical studies related to self-determination and students with ASD published in peer-reviewed journals. We examined the thematic categories of research studies, rigor of research, and influential factors. Among the 18 included studies, three distinct thematic categories were identified: (a) intervention research, (b) stakeholders’ perceptions, and (c) contextual analysis. Intervention articles were the most prevalent, followed by articles that reported stakeholders’ perceptions. Contextual analysis articles were less common. Several factors have been identified that influence student self-determination (e.g. age, gender, hours spent with peers, educational placement). This review suggests that self-determination of students with ASD can be promoted through instructional methods, and there are personal and environmental factors that are important to consider when supporting the self-determination of students with ASD. However, there is a need for enhanced rigor of research in future studies.

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Funding

This research was supported by the Ministry of Education and Culture of Asturias (BP16007 & EB19-04) and the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (PID2019-105737RB-I00).

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Correspondence to Mª Lucía Morán.

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Morán, M.L., Hagiwara, M., Raley, S.K. et al. Self-Determination of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review. J Dev Phys Disabil 33, 887–908 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10882-020-09779-1

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Keywords

  • Self-determination
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Systematic review
  • Self-determination intervention
  • Contextual factors