Autism, Ahead of Print.
While studies to map the priorities of the autistic community have been undertaken in some high-income countries, there has been little or no such systematic assessment in the global south. India alone is home to an estimated >5 million autistic individuals. To address this gap in the literature, this study conducted a survey of the Indian autism community on their priorities for three areas: skills training, intervention and research. Individuals with a clinical diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders and parents/guardians of autistic individuals were invited to take part in the study. Data from 280 respondents were collected online and followed up with interviews on a subset (n = 40) chosen through stratified random selection. Results highlighted a unanimous prioritisation for self-help skills as the most important area in skills training, as it was considered the foundation for acquiring all other skills. Speech and language therapy was identified as the most important intervention for autistic individuals. Within research, identifying the most effective ways for the community to support autistic people was given the topmost priority. Researchers, clinicians and policymakers may use these insights to develop services and shape future research that is more in accord with the community’s needs.Lay abstractIt is vital to directly engage with the autism community in order to develop better services and drive the research agenda. While some studies in high-income countries have mapped the priorities of the autism community, there is a severe dearth of such efforts in the global south. Five million autistic individuals are estimated to live in India alone, and there has been little effort to map their priorities. Moreover, studies in high-income countries focused largely on research priorities, and not so much on skills training and interventions. Keeping these needs in mind, we conducted an online survey followed by an in-depth conversation with parents of autistic children and autistic adults drawn from across India. We found that the respondents reported self-help skills to be the most important for training, as they considered it fundamental for every other aspect of life. Speech and language therapy was considered to be the highest intervention priority for this group, highlighting the importance of social communication. Mental health counselling was also considered to be a high priority, but several parents identified it as being more relevant for themselves rather than for their children. Within research, the topmost priority was to understand ways in which the community can better support autistic people. We hope that these findings will help researchers, policymakers and service providers to be able to make well-informed decisions, develop relevant services and shape future research.
Autism community priorities in diverse low-resource settings: A country-wide scoping exercise in India
Autism, Ahead of Print.