A Qualitative Study of Contextual Factors’ Impact on the Adaptation of a Caregiver-mediated Early Autism Intervention in South Africa
Background: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a major global health challenge as the majority of individuals with ASD live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and receive little to no services or support from health or social care systems. Despite this global crisis, the development and validation of ASD interventions has almost exclusively occurred in high-income countries, leaving many unanswered questions regarding what contextual factors would need to be considered to ensure the effectiveness of interventions in LMICs. This study sought to conduct explorative research on the contextual adaptation of a caregiver-mediated early ASD intervention for use in a low-resource setting in South Africa.
Methods: Participants included 22 caregivers of children with autism, including mothers (n=16), fathers (n=4), and grandmothers (n=2). Four focus groups discussions were conducted in Cape Town, South Africa with caregivers and lasted between 1.5-3.5 hours in length. Data was recorded, translated, and transcribed by research personnel. Data was then coded for emerging themes and analyzed using the NVivo qualitative data analysis software package.
Results: Nine contextual factors were reported to be important for the adaptation process including culture, language, location of treatment, cost of treatment, type of service provider, familial needs, length of treatment, support, and parenting practices. One contextual factor, evidence-based treatment, was reported to be both important and not important for adaptation by caregivers. The contextual factor of stigma was identified as an emerging theme and a specifically relevant challenge when developing an ASD intervention for use in a South African context.
Conclusions: Eleven contextual factors were discussed in detail by caregivers and examples were given regarding the challenges, sources, and preferences related to the contextual adaptation of a parent-mediated early ASD intervention in South Africa. Caregivers reported a preference for an affordable, in-home, individualized early ASD intervention, where they have an active voice in shaping treatment goals. Distrust of community-based nurses and health workers to deliver an early ASD intervention and challenges associated with ASD-based stigma were two unanticipated findings from this data set. Implications for practice and further research are discussed.
Sub Saharan Africa studies
South African studies
Autism spectrum disorder
Early autism intervention
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