Importance: Existing autism assessments, interventions, and research focus primarily on deficits rather than strengths, which affects autistic people’s well-being and their physical and mental health.
Objective: To develop an operational definition for strengths-based practice, develop a taxonomy to classify studies that characterize and provide strengths-based assessments and interventions, and present the impact on the mental health and well-being of autistic people of using strengths and interests in practice.
Data Sources: Literature was searched from 2000 to 2021 in the CINAHL, PsycINFO, EBSCOhost, MEDLINE, Web of Science, JSTOR, and ERIC databases.
Study Selection and Data Collection: A five-stage scoping review framework was merged with Joanna Briggs Institute enhancements to scrutinize peer-reviewed studies written in English that characterized and provided strengths-based assessments and interventions.
Findings: We sorted the 38 studies into four categories: strengths-based interventions, descriptive studies, exploratory studies, and commentaries. We found three fundamental themes: mental health outcomes, increased knowledge in interest areas, and supportive environments. Strengths-based interventions were related to positive social engagement, learning, self-advocacy, and anxiety reduction. Descriptive studies used strength assessments and examined stakeholder perceptions of strengths. Exploratory studies explored ways to incorporate strengths in practice. Finally, commentaries discussed the need to presume autistic competence and involve autistic people in research and practice.
Conclusions and Relevance: Despite the small body of literature, these findings have implications for pushing the boundaries of support to center the needs of autistic people and form genuine client collaborations.
What This Article Adds: This article adds to the understanding of using the strengths and interests of autistic people by incorporating their voices into occupational therapy research and practice in meaningful and purposeful ways.
Positionality Statement: This article uses the identity-first language autistic people. This nonableist language describes their strengths and abilities and is a conscious decision. This language is favored by autistic communities and self-advocates and has been adopted by health care professionals and researchers (Bottema-Beutel et al., 2021; Kenny et al., 2016).