A Self-Determination Theory Approach to Work Motivation of Autistic Adults: A Qualitative Exploratory Study

Yael Goldfarb, Ofer Golan, Eynat Gal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The study explores work motivation of autistic adults through the lens of Self-Determination Theory (SDT). Twelve autistic employees (ages 28–47; 3 females) participated in semi-structured qualitative interviews about their work experience. Analysis combined inductive and deductive approaches, identifying motivational themes emerging from the interviews, and analyzing them according to SDT concepts. Two major themes emerged: (1) work motivation factors positioned on the self-determination continuum: income and self-reliance; a daily routine; social/familial internalized norms; meaning and contribution; and job interest; and (2) satisfaction of psychological needs at work, postulated by SDT: competence, social-relatedness, and autonomy and structure. Findings are discussed in relation to current literature, and practical applications are suggested for meeting the motivational needs of autistic employees and promoting employment stability.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Issue number4
Early online date14 Jul 2021
StatePublished - Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study has been supported graduate research grants to Yael Goldfarb from the Organization for Autism Research and the National Insurance Institute of Israel. We thank the participants for devoting their time and sharing their valuable expericnes.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Autistic adults
  • Employment
  • Self-determination theory
  • Work motivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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