Study of Beliefs of Parents of Children with Autism Regarding Traditional Medicine in 4 Middle-East Countries

Friday, May 15, 2015: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Imperial Ballroom (Grand America Hotel)
M. Habash1 and M. Ftaiha2, (1)Leeds Becket University, Ottawa, ON, Canada, (2)Special Education, Abu Dhabi University, Al-Ain, United Arab Emirates
Background:  Many studies have suggested that over half of the families of children with autism spectrum disorders in Western countries use alternative and natural medicine. Over the Middle East, the use of traditional medicine seems to be very common too. There is a wide-spread of recommendations for uses of traditional medicine or recipes on Arabic autism related websites and forums. This study investigates the use of traditional medicine and reports on family beliefs and experiences

Objectives:  To assess the family beliefs about use of traditional medicine over the Middle East across multiple countries and different social and economic backgrounds

Methods:  A total of twenty families (n=20) of children who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders from Jordan, Palestine, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia participated in this study, with five families from each country. The families answered a questionnaire and participated in a follow up interview with the researchers. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected and analyzed

Results:  Results suggested the wide spread of using traditional medicine across all countries of the participating families. In addition, it is suggested that traditional medicine are widely prescribed by physicians and often by pediatricians, along with additional prescription and sometimes experimental drugs. Family’s responses also suggest uncertainty of the impact of using such medicine on their children. We also identified an association between the use of traditional medicine and practices and the belief of the possibility of healing from autism. The affordability of traditional medicine compared to other treatments has also been identified as an additional drive for using it.

Conclusions:  A wide range of traditional medicine and practices were identified in this study. The belief of the possibility of healing from autism seems to drive the families to try it. There is a need for more awareness of the benefits and possible harms.