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- PublicationAn Exploration of Autistic Children’s Prosocial Behaviour(University College Dublin. School of Psychology, 2022)
;0000-0001-6248-8775Recent shifts towards a neurodiversity perspective of autism have highlighted misunderstandings regarding Autistic people’s social interaction. In the area of prosocial behaviour (e.g., helping, sharing, comforting), diagnostic criteria and tools suggest that Autistic children lack prosocial capacities. However, evidence has indicated conflicting outcomes. Therefore, in the face of mixed theory and evidence, further research is needed. The overarching aim of this thesis was to clarify our understanding and increase knowledge about Autistic children’s prosocial behaviour and associated predictors. To meet these aims, Study 1 outlines a systematic review of published peer reviewed literature. Twenty-nine studies presented in 31 articles are reviewed. Study quality limitations and the various methodologies used to-date are outlined. A narrative synthesis of reviewed studies reveals positive findings regarding the frequency of Autistic children’s prosocial behaviour when compared to neurotypical children. Observations via the synthesis include numerous predictors of prosocial behaviour and identified differences in Autistic children’s approach to the behaviour. By collating this diverse body of literature, the review serves as a useful entry-point into the field and should prove a valuable resource for Autistic individuals, researchers and practitioners. Study 2 met the aims of the thesis through empirical examination of the prosocial behaviour of 51 children with Autistic characteristics via parent-report measures. Findings revealed increased prosocial behaviour with age, and towards familiar targets with whom increased empathy was experienced. Findings contribute to the evidence base that highlights the social context of Autistic social interaction. Recommendations are provided for clinical practice and research including a neurodiversity-affirmative position which celebrates Autistic differences. A relational approach towards assessment, intervention and future research is further advised. Overall, the present thesis highlights the prosocial strengths and potential of Autistic children, and the numerous ways their prosocial behaviour can be supported. 104
- PublicationA Systematic review of autistic children’s prosocial behaviourBackground: Prosocial behaviour (e.g., comforting, helping, sharing) is associated with important positive life outcomes. Historical and recent theory, evidence and personal accounts within the autism community present a mixed picture regarding Autistic children’s prosocial engagement. This systematic review consolidates, for the first time, how empirical studies have been measuring Autistic children’s prosocial behaviour to date (objective one). This review clarifies what knowledge the evidence provides, specifically how the type (e.g., comforting, helping, sharing), target (e.g., parent, experimenter, Autistic or neurotypical peer) and timing (e.g., young, middle, and late childhood) affect Autistic children’s prosocial behaviour (objective two). Methods: Relevant published records were identified through systematic searches of three electronic databases: PsychINFO, PubMED and Embase. Thirty studies presented in 29 articles met eligibility criteria and were included for data-extraction, quality assessment and narrative synthesis. Results: The most common methodologies used were found to be: in-person paradigms, games, informant reports, and self-reports. Reliability and validity efforts were inconsistent. It is hoped these findings will act as a benchmark for development of future research in the area. Outcomes were found to be much more positive about Autistic children’s engagement in prosocial behaviour than diagnostic criteria and historical theory suggests, with Autistic children often engaging in prosocial behaviour to the same frequency as comparison groups despite unfamiliar and neurotypical targets. Narrative synthesis revealed moderating variables and differing patterns and styles of Autistic children’s prosocial behaviour. Conclusions: Findings encourage Autistic strengths-based approaches and caution is expressed regarding findings possibly linked to Autistic masking.
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