Objectives: This study assessed knowledge about childhood autism among these final year students and determined the associated factors.
Methods: A total of 300 consented final year students were interviewed with socio-demographic and knowledge about childhood autism among health workers (KCAHW) questionnaires. One hundred final year students were randomly selected from each of the departments of medicine and surgery, nursing sciences and psychology respectively of University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria. The Knowledge about childhood autism among health workers (KCAHW) questionnaire is a nineteen item self-administered questionnaire that is divided into four domains. Results: Total mean score for the three groups on KCAHW questionnaire was 10.67 ± 3.73 out of a possible total score of 19. Mean score for the three groups showed statistical significant difference for domain 1 (impairment in area of social interaction, p = 0.000), domain 3 (area of repetitive and compulsive pattern of behaviour, p = 0.029), domain 4 (type of disorder, possible co-morbid conditions and usual time of onset of childhood autism, p = 0.000) and total score, with medical students more likely to recognise symptoms and signs of autism compared to nursing and psychology students. Mean score in domain 2 did not show statistical significant difference among the three groups (p = 0.769). The total score on KCAHW is positively correlated with number of weeks of posting in psychiatry (r = 0.316, p = 0.000) and number of weeks of posting in paediatrics (r = 0.336, p = 0.000). Total score on KCAHW is also positively correlated with credit hours of lectures in psychiatry/abnormal psychology (r = 0.298, p = 0.000) and credit hours of lectures in paediatrics (r = 0.336, p = 0.000). Field of study is the only socio- demographic variable that showed a statistical significant difference on total score of KCAHW questionnaire (p = 0.000).
Conclusions: Modifications in academic programmes for medical, nursing and psychology students in terms of increased duration of clinical postings and lectures in psychiatry and paediatrics is advocated for improved recognition of childhood autism by these future child health care professionals.