The statistics on autism in the United States of America are accurately and consistently updated. Autism has become a household topic, and with 1 in 66 children in the US falling on the spectrum, many Americans can identify with autism in a personal way. In the news, we constantly hear of new behavioral treatments and practices that can help young children with autism to succeed independently later in life. We also have access to doctors, researchers, and other experts on autism who can provide the support that helps autistic children and their families flourish.
However, this is not the same story in other places around the world. Imagine living in a country where health information does not travel so quickly, and complex cultural barriers create confusion around topics such as autism. A recent article about autism in Iran explains not only the lack of understanding about autism and the ensuing discrimination against autistic persons, but also the lack of options when it comes to care. There is a lack of care for autism, as well- there are not many providers who are knowledgeable about autism, and even less who understand how to implement up-to-date behavioral interventions.
In Yemen, similar attitudes prevail. One concerned parent stated that she has heard autism was a “horrible and destroying thing”- and later learned that her child was on the spectrum. While having a personal connection to autism helped this parent to learn that autism is not “a horrible and destroying thing”, she still struggled- who are the experts on autism in Yemen? Where could she go for information or behavioral therapy? And how would she cover those costs, in a country where healthcare systems are vastly different, and autism is not well-understood?
These issues are not unique to Middle Eastern countries, but rather bring to light many of the same issues around the world. There are likely far fewer countries that have the capacity to provide care for autistic persons. This poses an enormous problem for autistic persons in countries that cannot provide care. While solutions to this complex issue are likely in the distant future, creating awareness in these countries is a solid first step.