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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

A survey of Autism knowledge and attitudes among the healthcare professionals in Lahore, Pakistan

Nazish Imran1*, Mansoor R Chaudry2, Muhammad W Azeem3, Muhammad R Bhatti4, Zaidan I Choudhary5 and Mohsin A Cheema6

Author Affiliations

1 Child & Family Psychiatry Department, King Edward Medical University/Mayo Hospital, Lahore, Pakistan

2 Academic Department of Psychiatry & Behavioural Sciences, King Edward Medical University/Mayo Hospital, Lahore, Pakistan

3 Riverview Hospital for Children and Youth, Department of Children and Families CT, Yale Child Study Center, Middletown, CT, USA

4 Department of Psychiatry& Behavioural Sciences, King Edward Medical University/Mayo Hospital, Lahore, Pakistan

5 Academic Department of Psychiatry & Behavioural Sciences, King Edward Medical University/Mayo Hospital, Lahore, Pakistan

6 Department of Physiology and Cell biology, University of Health Sciences, Lahore, Pakistan

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BMC Pediatrics 2011, 11:107  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-11-107

Published: 22 November 2011

Abstract

Background

The diagnosis and treatment of Autism in Pakistan occurs in multiple settings and is provided by variety of health professionals. Unfortunately, knowledge and awareness about Autism is low among Pakistani healthcare professionals & the presence of inaccurate and outdated beliefs regarding this disorder may compromise early detection and timely referral for interventions. The study assessed the baseline knowledge and misconceptions regarding autism among healthcare professionals in Pakistan which can impact future awareness campaigns.

Methods

Physicians (psychiatrists, pediatricians, neurologists and family physicians) and non-physicians (psychologists and speech therapists) participated in this study. Knowledge of DSM-IV TR criteria for Autistic Disorder, beliefs about social, emotional, cognitive, treatment and prognosis of the disorder were assessed. Demographic information regarding the participants of the survey was also gathered.

Results

Two hundred and forty seven respondents (154 Physicians & 93 Non-physicians) participated in the study. Mean age of respondents was 33.2 years (S.D 11.63) with 53% being females. Reasonably accurate familiarity with the DSM IV-TR diagnostic criteria of Autistic Disorder was observed. However, within the professional groups, differences were found regarding the utilization of the DSM-IV-TR criteria when diagnosing Autistic Disorder. Non-Physicians were comparatively more likely to correctly identify diagnostic features of autism compared with Physicians (P-value <0.001). Significant misunderstandings of some of the salient features of autism were present in both professional groups.

Conclusion

Results suggests that current professionals in the field have an unbalanced understanding of autism due to presence of several misconceptions regarding many of the salient features of autism including developmental, cognitive and emotional features. The study has clinical implications and calls for continued education for healthcare professionals across disciplines with regards to Autism in Pakistan.