Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Education Specialist (Ed.S.)

Degree Granting Department

Psychological and Social Foundations

Major Professor

Linda M. Raffaele Mendez, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Karen A. Berkman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jennifer R. Wolgemuth, Ph.D.


post-school, cross-cultural, qualitative, thematic analysis, quality of life


There is an increasing population of students with ASD graduating from schools and entering adulthood. Post-school transition is particularly challenging for these young adults and they tend to exhibit unfavorable outcomes in various domains in life. The concept of self-determination has been identified to promote successful transition and adult outcomes. With its root stemming from Western ideologies, the conceptualizations and manifestations of self-determination have rarely been examined across cultures. The present study aims to examine the experiences of self-determination in young adults with ASD during their school-to-adulthood transition and directly compare their experiences across American and Chinese contexts. Individual interviews were conducted with 11 young adults with ASD in the United States and Hong Kong who exited high school within the past seven years. Results from thematic analysis revealed themes about participants’ experiences of self-determination in areas of autonomy, attainment of goals, psychological empowerment, and self-realization. Contextual factors in family, work, postsecondary education, community-based settings, and early school-age experiences were identified to influence participants’ development and expression of self-determination. Cross-cultural similarities and differences in self-determination among American and Chinese young adults with ASD were discussed in relation to various factors associated with their ecological systems. Implications of cultural-responsive understanding of self-determination for research and practice are discussed to promote better outcomes and quality of life in individuals with ASD transitioning from school to the adulthood.