Date of Award


Document Type

Independent Study

Degree Name

Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Sarah Nielsen


Introduction: Adolescents face physical, social, cognitive, and emotional changes during the developmental stage of puberty. Pubertal changes can be difficult for neurotypical adolescents to cope with, but especially for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Specifically, adolescents with ASD experience challenges with adapting to physical and emotional changes, managing new hygiene routines, abiding to social norms, and inappropriate sexual behaviors (Beddows & Brooks, 2016; Cridland, Caputi, Jones, & Magee, 2015; Cridland, Jones, Caputi, & Magee, 2014). While occupational therapy plays a role in helping adolescents with ASD, a lack of occupational therapy literature on this topic leads to unknown practice trends for practitioners to address puberty-related challenges in individuals with ASD. The purpose of this independent study was to understand the trends of occupational therapy practitioners in addressing developmental changes during puberty for adolescents with ASD.

Methodology: A descriptive survey design was used. The Occupational Therapy for Autism and Puberty Survey (OT-APS) was developed based upon a literature review to understand best practices in ASD. Stratified random sampling and convenience sampling were employed with 71 occupational therapy practitioners responding to the descriptive survey.

Results and Conclusions: Practice trends gleaned from the survey include: a) The most common assessments used were the Sensory Profile 2 (69.0%), the Sensory Processing vii Measure (63.4%), and the BOT-2 (62.0%). b) The most common interventions practitioners have been trained in were behavioral strategies (94.4%), sensory processing integration (81.7%), and social learning approaches (80.3%). c) The interventions most often used included social learning approaches (M= 5.30, SD = 2.86) and behavioral strategies (M = 5.28, SD = 2.65). d) Practitioners were most comfortable addressing emotional regulation (54.9%) and personal hygiene and self-care (58%) and least comfortable addressing masturbation (88. 7%) and menstruation ( 42.8% ). e) Practitioners were most comfortable using behavioral strategies (56.3%) and social learning approaches (46.5%).

Significance: This research study provided evidence regarding the training completed, challenges addressed, interventions used, and comfortability of occupational therapy practitioners to address puberty related changes and challenges with children and adolescents age 8-16 with ASD. The findings provide an understanding of current practice trends and can be compared with best practice approaches and help identify evidence-based interventions that are being more or less utilized. Further research is needed better understand how these interventions are being provided in practice and why interventions are more often or rarely used. The information can be used in determining whether occupational therapy practitioners require further training in and understanding of puberty related changes and challenges within this population.