The Influence of Islamic Values on How Parents Face and Cope with a Family Diagnosis of Autism

Thursday, May 15, 2014
Atrium Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Atlanta)
J. Mahdi and N. Madduri, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN

In traditionally Islamic countries, Autism Spectrum Disorder is often ignored and misunderstood. Accordingly, children with autism in these societies are sometimes ostracized despite the Islamic precedent that promotes their acceptance and respect. In this study, we examined the influence of Islamic values on the way autism is regarded and how it affects the way families perceive and raise their children as well as how children are integrated into their families and social and religious circles.

Objectives: The present study aims to evaluate issues that are encountered by families who follow Islam and have a child with ASD.

Methods: This IRB approved study consisted of qualitative interviews with Muslim parents with children with ASD from Texas and Tennessee. Topics discussed included parents’ initial reaction to their child’s diagnosis, current coping strategies, and religious, medical, and social problems the parents and their children faced.

Results: Even though faith served as a source of strength for parents and was emboldened upon taking care of their children, families were often isolated from their religious circles and extended families and met great intolerance as well as a lack of proper understanding and support from these communities.

Discussion: The themes found in traditionally Muslim societies also exist amongst others as well, reflecting the notion that even though Muslim families face discrimination from religious communities, it is not religion, but the cultural beliefs that have become intertwined with the religious community that underlie the isolation and lack of tolerance and acceptance of children with autism.

Conclusions: We hope these findings will lead to educational initiatives in mosques about children with ASD as well as the creation of religious support groups for parents.

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