Perceived Causes of Autism in Rural and Urban Multi-Cultural Context on the Kenyan Coast
Objectives: (a) to determine perceived causes of autism in a multi-cultural context; (b) to establish whether religion influences the way people perceive causes of autism.
Methods: We recruited a total of 104 participants consisting of parents of children with and without autism, teachers, clinicians, social workers and project managers from different ethnic and religious backgrounds living in rural and urban settings on the Kenyan Coast. Interviews and focus group discussions were the methods of data collection. The interviews and the focus group discussions were recorded, transcribed and translated into English; and imported to the NVIVO 7 program for storage and management. Content analysis was utilized to analyze the data. The text was read thrice for familiarization to identify key issues. The data were coded using free nodes to identify consistencies and differences. All the free nodes with similar messages were grouped into tree nodes each bearing a name of a theme. Connections within and between themes were identified for interpretation.
Results: Cultural beliefs in evil spirits, witchcraft and curse were viewed to cause autism by participants from both rural and urban settings. In addition, biomedical causes such as brain insults, malnutrition, misuse of drugs and perinatal complications were stated. The potential role of genetic influences was also cited. There were no indications of religious influences on perceived causes of autism
Conclusions: The results revealed that participants held similar views despite coming from different settings with cultural and religious diversity. Knowledge on perceived causes of autism and its impact on treatment of autism may provide valuable conceptual understanding for health and education practitioners working with parents of children with autism in these settings.