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A Grounded Theory Approach to Exploring the Worlds of Chronically Ill Autistic Adults

Principal Investigator(s):

Casey Lewis

Grant Type:

Graduate Research




Oklahoma State University

Year Awarded:



In Progress


Employment, Transition, and Adults; Health and Sensory Issues


Autism spectrum disorder is a disability that includes differences in thinking, movement, sensory processing, communication, and socializing (“Who We Are,” n.d.). While research indicates autistic* people have high rates of chronic illnesses (Sharpe et al., 2019), the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon have not yet been explored. The intersection of autism and chronic illness could present significant challenges in academic, school, occupational, and social functioning. Compared to non-autistic chronically ill people, autistic people may receive less support from others about their illness and may be given less support or accommodations for their disabilities. Autistic people may also have trouble communicating and articulating their illness and related needs to those in their lives, especially those in positions of authority or power (e.g., bosses, teachers, doctors). Therefore, the present study will focus on adults that are both autistic and chronically ill from a qualitative perspective, using in-depth interviews. Community participatory research methods will be used throughout the research process. Interviews with chronically ill autistic adults will be analyzed using grounded theory methodology (Glaser & Strauss,1967). The findings from this study have the potential to have profound implications for future research, clinical, and advocacy work