Immigrant Families’ Perception of the Causes, First Manifestations, and Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Marie Millau, Mélina Rivard, Catherine Mello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Compared to families from their host country, families from immigrant backgrounds who have a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) tend to experience greater difficulties in accessing, using, and complying with intervention services for their child. This disparity may be partially accounted for by cultural differences in how families perceive the causes and symptoms of ASD as well as their treatment priorities. The present study sought to document these perceptions in immigrant families living in a Canadian city. Forty-five parents from Latin America, Africa, Western and Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, East Asia, and the Middle East participated in a semi-structured interview. These data were examined qualitatively through thematic analysis to first document all parents’ perceptions, then to contrast mothers’ and fathers’ responses, and finally to examine common themes as a function of country of origin. The most frequently mentioned causes of ASD were environmental factors such as vaccines and diet. Moreover, some participants did not know the cause of their child’s ASD. The majority of parents cited the absence of speech as one of the first symptoms noted in their child. Priorities for intervention varied: mothers tended to prioritize speech therapy, whereas fathers favored support in school. Taken as a whole, these findings highlight the need to implement informational programs for these families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3468-3481
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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