An occupational perspective on the lived experience of menstruation for autistic adults

Bowden, Samantha L.J. ORCID logo ORCID: and Miller, Paul K. ORCID logo ORCID: (2023) An occupational perspective on the lived experience of menstruation for autistic adults. In: Royal College of Occupational Therapists Annual Conference 2023, 14-15 June 2023, Online. (Unpublished)

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Menstruation is known to have potentially adverse impacts at multiple levels of occupational performance (Armour et al., 2019). Little research has to date, however, directly investigated the everyday menstruation experiences of autistic individuals, for whom menses and menarche are widely thought to be particularly occupationally disruptive (Steward et al., 2018).

In this paper, a qualitative research design was employed to address the lived experiences of menstruation among a small set (N=6) of autistic adults in the UK. With institutional ethical approval (reference: 2511/SRPM/2021), in-depth online interviews were conducted. These yielded 34,734 words of transcript, which were thematically analysed using the six steps described by Braun and Clarke (2006), and interpreted through an Occupational Perspective of Health Framework (Wilcock and Hocking, 2015).

Three interconnected global themes were identified. 1. ‘Sense of self’, addressing participants’ sensory overload and amplified experiences of anxiety, ‘brain fog’ and concern with cleanliness. 2. ‘Attributional work’, addressing events and contexts which were taken to trigger and/or exacerbate key problems (such as the need to use public restrooms). 3. ‘Reclaiming orderliness’, addressing participants’ pragmatic strategies for overcoming the increased unpredictability inherent in their lives during periods.

It was concluded that menstruation poses specific, significant challenges for autistic individuals which require autism-specific solutions. These challenges impact individuals’ ability to particularly perform occupations of self-care, productivity, and leisure. As such, Occupational Therapists have a key role to play in the provision of support to address the impact of menstruation on occupational engagement and participation.

Armour, M., Parry, K., Al-Dabbas, M., Curry, C., Holmes, K., MacMillan, F., Ferfolja, T. and Smith, C.A. (2019) 'Self-care strategies and sources of knowledge on menstruation in 12,526 young women with dysmenorrhea: A systematic review and meta-analysis', PloS One, 14(7), pp. e0220103. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0220103.
Braun, V. and Clarke, V. (2006) 'Using thematic analysis in psychology', Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), pp. 77-101. doi: 10.1191/1478088706qp063oa.
Steward, R., Crane, L., Mairi Roy, E., Remington, A. and Pellicano, E. (2018) '“Life is much more difficult to manage during periods”: Autistic experiences of menstruation', Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 48(12), pp. 4287-4292. doi: 10.1007/s10803-018-3664-0.
Wilcock, A.A. and Hocking, C. (2015) An Occupational Perspective of Health. Thorofare, NJ: SLACK Incorporated.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)
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Departments: Institute of Health > Rehabilitation and Sport Science
Additional Information: Appeared as British Journal of Occupational Therapy meeting abstract (volume 86, issue 1, pp47-48, Supplement, meeting abstract P04, August 2023).
Depositing User: Paul Miller
Date Deposited: 08 Mar 2023 14:54
Last Modified: 13 Jan 2024 14:45


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