A Profile of Children with Autism in Ethiopia from the Perspective of Parents

Saturday, May 14, 2016: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall A (Baltimore Convention Center)
W. Zeleke and M. Chitiyo, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA
Background:   One of the important aspects of autism that could be helpful to researchers in developing relevant interventions for children ASD in Africa is understanding the specific characteristics of ASD in the region. Unfortunately, there are still many unanswered questions on characteristics of ASD in Africa. For example, current research suggests that the stereotypic repetitive behaviors and activities characteristic of ASD are uncommon in Africa (Mankoski et al., 2006). But that research is not conclusive; it will be important to ascertain this difference in terms of specific behaviors. Also, even though Khan and Hombarume (1996) reported autistic typical behaviors among their sample of participants, the sample comprised of children with intellectual disabilities, which could confound the outcome. It is these lingering uncertainties that make the characterization of ASD in Africa unclear. 

Objectives:  This study aimed to investigate the characteristics of ASD in Ethiopia and to establish a profile of children with ASD in order to promote a better and clearer understanding of the disorder in Ethiopia. It is anticipated that such an effort could enhance better understanding of the disorder and promote better treatment outcomes among the African population

Methods:   Survey questionnaires and Focus Group Discussion (FGD) were used to collect data from 85 parents of children with ASD. Descriptive and inferential statistics were run to analyze the data.


The majority of research participants (85%) reported that even though they noticed their child disability as early as two years old, the average age when their child see a professional for diagnosis was five years old.  Parents’ reason for seeking help from professional for their child with ASD found to be related to cultural, social, economic and educational factors. Diagnoses for the children was conducted by either a physician or pediatrician (n=55), either a psychologist or counsellor (n=18), or a psychiatrist (n=12). The symptoms leading to the diagnoses included behavioral (n=38), language/communication (n=26), social skills (n=2), or health (n=10). While most did not indicate the types of therapy that the children were receiving, a few indicated their children were receiving speech therapy (n=2) and behavioral therapy (n=21). Some of the children had been receiving therapy for as long as 12 years; 24 indicated that they had noticed change as a result of the therapy while 21 indicated not seeing any change; 20 did not respond.

Conclusions:  Parents’ awareness of autism is important for early dedication of ASD. It is also noted that cultural context may significance affect the age of identification of the symptoms, seeking intervention, and parents’ understanding of the characteristics of autism.