African Health Sciences

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Early diagnosis and intervention for autism spectrum disorder in Africa: insights from a case study

Nicola Wannenburg, Roelf van Niekerk


Background: Globally the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has become more apparent. Prevalence on the African continent remains unknown. There is a call for further research into ASD in Africa as well as means to make early diagnosis and intervention possible.

Objectives: The study aimed to raise awareness about ASD in Africa and encourage dialogue on possible intervention strategies for ASD in low resource settings.

Methods: This was a qualitative mixed method case study. Literature regarding ASD in Africa was reviewed in order to provide context for the research and facilitate data reduction of the case study of Temple Grandin. The case study was conducted through a psychobiographical approach using Erikson’s (1950/1973) theory of psychosocial development to interpret the life of Temple Grandin. The findings underwent further data reduction in order to focus on possible interventions for ASD.

Results: Four primary interventions were found to be useful in facilitating development in an individual with ASD. Namely; speech therapy, creative endeavours, animals (human-animal interaction), and being mentored.

Conclusion: Undiagnosed and untreated cases of ASD place undue psychosocial and economic burden on families and communities. Government support, by including ASD in health policies, is essential. Through creative adaptation of knowledge, communities may provide a valuable resource to ASD intervention strategies.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder, case study.
AJOL African Journals Online