This study examined the phenomenon of online gaming to describe the social interactions of young adults with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as they socialize and develop relationships within virtual environments. This research built upon previous literature related to the identification of alternate modes of developing social skills and interpersonal relationships of adolescents with ASD by exploring the social implications of virtual environments. Young adults with autism experience grim outcomes such as low enrollment in postsecondary education, low wages, few living independently, and few maintaining full time employment as a result of poor social skills. Given the availability of online mediums such as massively multiplayer online role playing games, discussion forums, chat rooms, and other social media, individuals with ASD have opportunities to interact without the constraints of face-to-face settings. A phenomenological study was employed using multi-sourced data. Findings yielded 15 initial codes that were developed into five main themes. Findings support a recognition and reciprocation of emotions, friendship development, and role identification. Additionally, the findings support skills required to be successful in postsecondary situations, specifically aligned with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
Virtual Environments, Young Adults with Autism, Postsecondary Transition, Friendships, Emotional Awareness, Role Identification, Transcendental Phenomenology
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Recommended APA Citation
Gallup, J., Little, M. E., Serianni, B., & Kocaoz, O. (2017). The Potential of Virtual Environments to Support Soft-Skill Acquisition for Individuals with Autism. The Qualitative Report, 22(9), 2509-2532. https://doi.org/10.46743/2160-3715/2017.2973