UBC Graduate Research

Understanding the impact of autism on families in Canada's largest immigrant populations : a scoping review Dhanji, Ashifa


Background: Autism has been identified as one of the fastest growing developmental disabilities affecting all ethnicities. Children who have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have difficulties with verbal and nonverbal communication as well as developing and maintaining relationships. As adults, affected individuals may have difficulties living independently. With Canada’s growing ethnocultural diversity, it is important that health and community service providers understand how ASD is understood and experienced by immigrant families. Objective: To identify and describe the current state of research literature that has explored the experiences of families who have a child diagnosed with ASD among families that represent the largest recent immigrant populations in Canada. Methods: A scoping review was conducted in February 2018. Three databases were searched for literature published between January 2008 and February 2018. Inclusion criteria were: (1) research studies of any design; (2) published in English; (3) published between January 2008 and February 2018; (4) a study sample that consisted of, or addressed the needs of immigrant families from Philippines, India, China, Iran and Pakistan who were living in Canada or the United States, and have children diagnosed with ASD. Results: Thirteen articles met the inclusion criteria. Nine articles addressed Chinese immigrant families; one article discussed Indian immigrants; two articles focused on families from Pakistan and one study focused on Iranian-American mothers. Four major themes were identified in the literature: culture and community, bilingualism, parental responses to ASD and culturally safe service provision. Conclusion: There is limited literature addressing the experiences of immigrant families with children who have a diagnosis of ASD. Culture specific stressors, strengths, and challenges influence how families understand and cope with a diagnosis of autism in the child. Bilingual language practices of immigrant families may not disadvantage children with ASD. Policies supporting cultural competency training for service providers should be put in place for educators and therapists supporting families with children who have a diagnosis of ASD.

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