• Self-determination influences the five identified domains of life experiences.
• Self-determined behaviors contribute to improved QoL of adults with ASD.
• The existing literature on adults with ASD does not represent the full population.
Researchers have suggested self-determined individuals are more likely to initiate changes to achieve specific goals, resulting in higher quality of life (QoL). However, the links between self-determination and overall life experiences and QoL of adults with ASD are not well understood.
A qualitative review based on critical interpretive synthesis (CIS) framework was conducted to investigate what is currently known about the association between self-determination and the life experiences of adults with ASD. A comprehensive structured literature search was conducted to locate empirical studies in peer-reviewed journals that described first-hand experiences of individuals with ASD over 18 years of age. Of 44 identified studies, 14 studies included evidence of self-determined behaviors in adults with ASD.
Self-determination is implicated in five domains of life experiences– employment status, social participation, advocacy, positive identity, and stress management –and individuals with ASD perceive a relationship between self-determination and QoL. Limitations in the current literature on adults with ASD are identified.
Services and supports that provide more natural opportunities for acquiring and exercising self-determination skills are needed to promote QoL of adults with ASD.