GO WITH THE FLOW? LINKS BETWEEN FLOW STATE AND SPECIAL INTERESTS IN INDIVIDUALS WITH AUTISM


Elisabeth Blanke1,2, Julia Bartz1,2, Hermann Bullig2, Christoph Chwiekowsky2, Sebastian Dern2, Robert Elias2, Ernest Götz2, C. Grambert2, Regina Hartmann2, Jennifer Kirchner1,2, Urike Sünkel2,Lea Willer2, Dietmar Zoerner2, Isabel Dziobek1,2

1 Freie Universität Berlin
2 Autismus-Forschungs- Kooperation (AFK) Berlin


Background: The focus of psychological research concerning the autism spectrum lies on the deficits of those affected (Murray, 2005). The Autismus-Forschungs-Kooperation (AFK) wants to contribute to the exploration of possible strengths in people on the autism spectrum. The AFK is an association of people on the autism spectrum and scientists at Freie Universität Berlin with the aim of conducting research projects collectively and improving the quality of life of people with autism.

The present exploratory study deals with the concept of flow (Csikszentimihalyi, 1975). Flow is defined as merging into a smoothly running, autotelic activity, in which the demands of an activity and the person's ability are in balance with each other. A central aspect that defines the flow state is the effortless maintenance of attention (e.g., Dormashev, 2010). In people with autism attention to a specific subject of interest appears to be especially pronounced (Murray, Lesser & Lawson, 2005; Markram & Markram 2010). Therefore, hereafter, it is to be examined whether and how autistic people experience flow and whether there is a correlation between special interests and flow.


Method:
Using a modified flow questionnaire based on the Flow-Kurz-Skala (Rheinberg, Vollmeyer & Engeser, 2003) the Flow Experience in autistic and neurotypical persons has been assessed. The survey was carried out online.


Results: Based on preliminary data flow experience of autistic individuals during their special interests appears to be higher compared to the flow experience of neurotypical individuals during their hobby activities. The results of the study will be presented at the conference. Here, we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of flow experience in regard to the social context and consider their implications for the quality of life of individuals on the autism spectrum.



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