Cross-Cultural Differences in Autism Spectrum Disorders

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University of Montana Conference on Undergraduate Research (UMCUR)

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Gregerson, Lakiash
ScholarWorks at University of Montana
lecture / presentation description
There are increasing prevalence rates of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in children around the world (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012). The diagnostic criteria for ASD are internationally accepted; however, there are cultural differences among children with ASD (Marson, et al, 2011). ASD is a developmental disorder that is characterized by impairment in social interaction, communication, repetitive behaviors, and restricted interest (American Psychological Association, 2000). The symptoms and prevalence of this disorder may not be the same in different cultures. For example, the absence for eye contact is a presenting symptom of ASD; however, in Asian cultures, direct eye contact is disrespectful, and therefore may not be a relevant indicator of ASD (Wallis & Pinto-Martin, 2008). Similarly, treatments of ASD may differ depending on cultural values and health practices. While behavior therapy is commonly used in many Western cultures, holistic and vitamin therapies are commonly used in India (Daley, 2002). Finally, studies have shown differences in prevalence rates across cultures. One study, for example, found differences in prevalence rates between Denmark and Western Australia (Parner et al, 2011). These cultural differences may be important to consider, particularly for practitioners who are providing services to children with ASD. This paper presentation reviews the current literature on cross-cultural prevalence rates, cultural differences in symptom presentation, and the effect of culture and language on ASD treatment. Discussion will include calls for future research in Native American populations with regard to the symptom presentation, prevalence rates, and effective treatment.