Autism: a cross-cultural perspective on service provision and capacity building

Dr Ilona Roth (OU) Prevalence estimates for autism in the western world have risen substantially over recent years, most probably reflecting a combination of increasing public awareness, wider inclusion criteria and improved diagnostic services. Many gaps and inequalities of services and support remain, especially in relation to adults and to deprived and ethnic minority communities. There is growing recognition of these needs and of the political, practical and educational initiatives necessary to address them. However autism is now widely recognised to be a global problem. Many difficulties faced by individuals with autism and their families in Lower and Middle Income Countries (LAMIC) resemble those in the western world, but have strikingly greater scale and impact in these settings. Moreover, a western approach to resolving gaps in diagnosis, intervention and other forms of service provision often does not translate well to LAMIC situations and cultures. A recent collaboration between academics at The Open University and the University of Addis Ababa, led by Dr Rosa Hoekstra, now at Kings College London, sheds light on the situation in Ethiopia, where low awareness of autism, together with stigma and extremely limited service provision serve as a striking example of the challenges to be addressed worldwide. This presentation will discuss findings from this research (1), and practical initiatives (2) undertaken as potential steps towards addressing these problems.
  1. Tekola, B.; Baheretibeb, Y.; Roth, I.; Tilahun, D.; Fekadu, A.; Hanlon, C. and Hoekstra, R.A. (2016). Challenges and opportunities to improve autism services in low-income countries: lessons from a situational analysis in Ethiopia. Global Mental Health, vol. 3(e21) at
Date of seminar: 29 March 2017. Download: Policy Briefing Presentation