Understanding and awareness of autism among Somali parents living in the United Kingdom

Amal M. Hussein, Elizabeth Pellicano, Laura Crane*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    23 Citations (Scopus)
    30 Downloads (Pure)


    Using vignettes and interviews, this study examined understanding and awareness of autism, and (a)typical development more broadly, among 32 Somali parents living in the United Kingdom. Results demonstrated that parents of both autistic (n = 16) and non-autistic (n = 16) children were just as likely to identify vignettes of typically developing children, yet parents of autistic children appeared more astute to signs of atypical development. Across the whole sample, parents commonly identified and labelled vignettes of autistic children, but experienced more difficulty labelling vignettes that described children with other forms of atypical development, sometimes mislabeling these children as autistic. This suggests that there is a need for greater support in recognising and identifying different types of atypical development in the Somali community (to mitigate the risk that the term ‘autism’ may take on its own meaning within the Somali community, becoming a euphemism for a range of developmental conditions). Analysis of interview data identified key sociocultural factors that either helped or hindered the inclusion of families with autistic children within the community, including the Somali community’s: (1) perceptions of disability, (2) beliefs about the causes of autism in the Western world and (3) strong reliance on religious beliefs in understanding and accepting an autism diagnosis.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1408-1418
    Number of pages11
    Issue number6
    Early online date29 Nov 2018
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019


    • attitudes
    • autism spectrum disorders
    • culture
    • migrant
    • qualitative research
    • Somali


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