Awareness of ASD in Pakistani Primary Schools (as of 2013)
Across South Asia (India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh), autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has historically been considered taboo and is often not discussed properly in both social and academic settings. In Pakistan, the prevalence of autism is reported to be approximately 1 in 120, which is significantly lower than what is reported in the western world. It can be inferred that this low statistic is largely a result of the lack of awareness about ASD, leading to much fewer diagnoses. Thus, increased awareness of autism in primary school teachers is essential for early autism diagnoses and successful intervention.
In Dr. Muhammad Arif’s study, 170 teachers from both public and private schools in Karachi (the largest city in Pakistan) were randomly selected to complete a survey assessing their knowledge and perception of ASD. Sixteen questions were created based on the diagnostic criteria by the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders.
It was found that 55% of the teachers had acquired all of their knowledge about ASD through the media, mainly TV and radio. Only 10% of the teachers had attended formal training about autism, and only 8.8% had attended an autism workshop. Additionally, only 22% of the private school teachers and 28% of the public school teachers were aware that autism is an inherited disorder. Having a sibling diagnosed with ASD places subsequent siblings at a 20% rate of also getting a diagnosis. However, 48% of the teachers in the private sector and 46% of the teachers in the public sector did recognize the fact that autism is both a learning and a social disorder. A huge misconception about autism in general is on intellectual abilities of individuals on the spectrum. A majority do not struggle intellectually, only socially. On average, private school teachers answered 6.85 questions from the survey correctly, while public school teachers answered 7.88 questions correctly. It was concluded that the teachers in the public sector had better knowledge and perception regarding autism when compared with their counterparts in the private sector, which is surprising given the fact that students’ families are usually paying more for a private school education.
The results indicate that knowledge of basic facts about ASD is lacking in primary school teachers in Pakistan. This is problematic because teachers play a vital role in the development of children in the early years of their lives, and diagnosis of autism at an early age is highly beneficial to a child’s development and burden on a family. It has been found that diagnosis before the age of four leads to 10,000 USD saved per year later in life for a family. Thus, the ability for teachers to successfully identify students with ASD is essential to achieve early diagnoses of autism, which enables appropriate therapies and care.
In 2000, The Ministry of Education of British Columbia published a resource book for teachers regarding autism and multiple tools were given to primary school teachers. When the tools were used by teachers, children with autism showed marked intellectual improvement and coped well with school work. This emphasizes the fact that, through proper training, teachers can greatly improve the futures of children with autism.
Ultimately, this research displays the general lack of awareness regarding ASD in Pakistani teachers and calls for the implementation of proper training programs.
Arif, M., Niazy, A., Hassan, B., & Ahmed, F. (2013, November 30). Retrieved May 24, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3864073/.