Indigenous Australians with autism: A scoping review

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Abstract

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with autism spectrum disorder, used interchangeably with the term autism, are among the most marginalised people in Australian society. This review maps out existing and emerging themes in the research involving Indigenous Australians with autism based on a search of the peer-reviewed and grey literature. Our search identified 1457 potentially relevant publications. Of these, 19 publications met our inclusion criteria and focused on autism spectrum disorder diagnosis and prevalence, as well as carer and service provider perspectives on autism, and autism support services for Indigenous Australians. We were able to access 17 publications: 12 journal articles, 3 conference presentations, 1 resource booklet and 1 dissertation. Findings suggest similar prevalence rates for autism among Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, although some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with autism may not receive a diagnosis or may be misdiagnosed. Research on the perspectives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander carers and Indigenous and non-Indigenous service providers is discussed in relation to Indigenous perspectives on autism, as well as barriers and strategies to improve access to diagnosis and support services. Although not the focus of our review, we briefly mention studies of Indigenous people with autism in countries other than Australia. Lay Abstract: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with developmental disabilities such as autism are among the most marginalised people in Australian society. We reviewed research involving Indigenous Australians with autism based on a search of the peer-reviewed and grey literature. Our search identified 1457 potentially relevant publications. Of these, 19 publications were in line with our main areas of inquiry: autism spectrum disorder diagnosis and prevalence, carer and service provider perspectives on autism, and autism support services. These included 12 journal publications, 3 conference presentations, 1 resource booklet and 1 thesis dissertation. Findings suggest similar prevalence rates for autism among Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, although some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with autism may not receive a diagnosis or may be misdiagnosed. We also discuss research on the perspectives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander carers and Indigenous and non-Indigenous service providers, as well as barriers and strategies for improving access to diagnosis and support services.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1031-1046
Number of pages16
JournalAutism
Volume24
Issue number5
Early online date13 Jan 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2020. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).

Keywords

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • Australia
  • autism
  • autism spectrum disorder
  • Indigenous

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