Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Sarah K. Nielsen


Autistic Disorder; Interpersonal Relations; Occupational Therapy -- methods; Young Adult


Purpose: In the United States, autism spectrum disorders affect 1 in 88 individuals (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012). Autism spectrum disorders affect individuals throughout their lifespan (Alexander, 2011). The most significant impairment in individuals with high functioning autism experience is qualitative impairment in social interaction (Sadock & Sadock, 2008). Services for individuals with autism spectrum disorders are available until the age of 21. Therefore, adults with autism spectrum disorders have limited access to intervention even though they continue to struggle (Shattuck, Wagner, Narendorf, Sterzinger, & Hansley, 2011). The focus of this project is young adults with high functioning autism spectrum disorder and the social interactions that occur in relationships, specifically dating.

Methods: An extensive literature review was conducted in order to understand difficulties individuals face in dating along with evidenced-based interventions for social participation. The information obtained from the literature review was then analyzed using the Person Environment Occupation model (Law et al., 1996). Through the use of the Person Environment Occupation model, a systematic analysis of the occupational performances issues was conducted. Areas of need were then identified and interventions were created to improve occupational performance specific to dating.

Results: Based upon the methodology described above, we developed a community based dating intervention protocol for young adults with high functioning autism spectrum disorders. The program includes weekly 90 minute sessions for 14 weeks. Each session focuses on a deficit area identified in the literature review as well as the systematic analysis. Sessions are graded to build upon one another in order to facilitate successful acquisition of dating skills.

Conclusion: Several barriers may limit this programs implementation, such as the length of dedicated time to the program, limited funding and resources, and the effectiveness and validity of the program have not yet been researched. Despite these weaknesses, the program has several areas of strength including filling a current need, serving adults with autism spectrum disorders. The program is also based on research and grounded in a model.