Original Research

Knowledge of autism among students at a South African Institute of Higher Education

Marguerite De Jongh, Heidi A.M. Mapisa
Health SA Gesondheid | Vol 29 | a2301 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hsag.v29i0.2301 | © 2024 Marguerite de Jongh, Heidi Anna-Marie Mapisa | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 December 2022 | Published: 31 May 2024

About the author(s)

Marguerite De Jongh, Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, School of Health Care Sciences, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, Ga-Rankuwa, South Africa
Heidi A.M. Mapisa, Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, School of Health Care Sciences, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, Ga-Rankuwa, South Africa

Abstract

Background: Autism is a significant concern because of the increase in the prevalence of the disorder. University healthcare students might not all be adequately prepared to serve autistic individuals. Hence, there is a need in the South African context for information on healthcare practitioners’ knowledge of general aspects, diagnosis and management of autism.

Aim: To determine current knowledge on autism among speech-language pathology and audiology (SLP & A) students at a South African Higher Education Institution.

Setting: The study was conducted among 65 second, third and fourth year students at the SLP & A Department of a South African Higher Education Institution.

Methods: A descriptive quantitative design utilising an online questionnaire was used to gather the quantitative and, to a lesser extent, qualitative data. Descriptive measures were used to analyse and summarise the data.

Results: Participants mainly understood autism’s fundamental symptoms and comorbidities, early intervention, team management and speech-language therapist (SLT) duties. Students were found to have little awareness of autism’s prevalence, causes, diagnosing experts, intervention methods and treatment. Participants felt uncomfortable treating autistic people owing to a lack of clinical exposure. Participants want further training.

Conclusion: Students reported the need for additional training on autism, including its identification, diagnosis, assessment and treatment. It is recommended that the study be replicated at other institutions to impact other curricula.

Contribution: This research article provides input for enhancing the curriculum for Health Science Departments in Higher Education Institutions.


Keywords

autism spectrum disorder; curriculum; identification; assessment; intervention; speech-language therapists; speech-language pathology; audiology

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 4: Quality education

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