Elements of culture and tradition that shape the perceptions and expectations of Somali refugee mothers about autism (pp. 335-349)
Authors: Shanna Miller-Gairy and Saul Mofya
Abstract: The objective of this study was to examine the elements of culture and tradition that affect perceptions and expectations of Somali refugee mothers regarding Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The study consisted of 25 participant; mothers, children and service providers from Refugee Family Assistance Programís Parent As Teachers program through focus groups, participatory observation and face-to-face-interviews. Results of the study indicated that these mothers perceived ASD to be a new concept and a result of a combination of stringent vaccination administration, the environment, and processed food. Some even referred to the evil-eye. Mothers also indicated that their expectations for treatment were low because service providers failed to understand their culture and as a result were unable to communicate with them both literally and figuratively. They do not expected this situation to change until or unless they returned to Somalia, where their child (ren) can have excess to more sun light, organic foods and relaxed vaccination standards. While on the other hand services providers identified failure to understand the etiology of ASD, education, socioeconomic status, family/community support and language as primary barriers to early diagnoses, retention and overall treatment success. Their expectations of the future were hopeful, in spite of recent increase in diagnosis rates, indicating that health promotion and education were effective tools to impact change.