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A qualitative exploration of an autism-specific self-compassion program: The ASPAA

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posted on 2024-06-04, 00:20 authored by Chris Edwards, Vicki Gibbs, Abigail MA Love, Lydia BrownLydia Brown, Ru Cai
As mental health concerns coupled with inadequate supports have been described as reaching crisis proportions in autistic people, there is a pressing need for accessible and effective support systems. While self-compassion has shown various benefits in the general population, its application in supporting autistic individuals remains limited. This study investigated the experiences of 39 autistic adults who participated in an autism-specific online self-compassion program. The program included a series of five modules which incorporated psychoeducation, meditation, and self-reflective exercises that were completed over a 5-week period. Qualitative data was collected through weekly check-ins and a post-program survey, which underwent thematic analysis through the lens of an autistic researcher resulting in four key themes: the positive impact of self-compassion, challenges faced during the program, recognizing self-compassion as a journey, and the value of program adaptations. These findings shed light on the experiences of autistic adults engaging with self-compassion interventions, highlighting both the benefits and barriers they encountered. The study underscores the importance of developing tailored interventions that consider the unique needs and perspectives of autistic individuals to promote improved mental health outcomes and foster inclusivity. Lay abstract: Autistic people often struggle to find the right support for their mental health. We wanted to change that by trying a new approach to help autistic adults with their emotions and well-being. We focused on something called “self-compassion,” which is a way of being kind and understanding toward ourselves. This approach has worked well for many people, but we didn’t know if it would work for autistic individuals. We invited 39 autistic adults to join an online program that taught them about self-compassion. The program lasted 5 weeks and included educational materials, meditation exercises, and self-reflection activities. We asked the participants for feedback each week and at the end of the program. From their responses, we discovered four important things. First, self-compassion had a big positive impact on the well-being of autistic adults. Second, they faced some challenges during the program. Third, they saw self-compassion as a journey that takes time and practice. Finally, they described how they valued changes to help autistic people engage with the program. Our findings show that self-compassion can really help autistic adults. We learned about the benefits they experienced and the difficulties they faced. Most importantly, we found that personalized support is crucial for autistic individuals. By creating programs that consider their specific needs, we can improve their mental health and make their lives better.


The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The research was supported by Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect).


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© The Author(s) 2024. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (

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