Abstract

Background: Limited research is available on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in Africa. The purpose of this study is to increase understanding of the diagnosis, treatment and education of children and adults with ASDs.
Methods: Questionnaires and a structured interview were used to gather information from families of children and young adults (n=25, 19 male, 6 female, age range 3-30 years) with ASDs. Descriptive statistics and frequencies were used to describe demographic background information, parent concerns prior to diagnosis, medical and developmental history, associated symptoms, education and treatment history, and perceived treatment needs. Demographic, medical, school, and treatment characteristics are presented alongside case reports to illustrate common themes.
Results: Symptom severity measured using the Autism Spectrum Rating Scales revealed that the majority of the sample had ASD severity scores in the “elevated” or “very elevated” ranges. Participants were identified in early childhood, due to concerns about developmental delays. Few sleeping and eating difficulties were reported.  While externalizing behaviors were cited as a primary concern, few participants utilized medications for the treatment of hyperactivity or aggression.
Conclusions: Caregivers in this sample cite significant concerns about managing behavior, highlighting the need for additional parent training.