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Public attitudes to people with ASD: contact, knowledge and ethnicity

Eli Gemegah (Department of Education Studies, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK)
Dimitra Hartas (Department of Education Studies, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK)
Vasiliki Totsika (Division of Psychiatry, University College London, London, UK; Department of Psychiatry, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia and Centre for Educational Development, Appraisal and Research, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK)

Advances in Autism

ISSN: 2056-3868

Article publication date: 16 October 2020

Issue publication date: 11 August 2021

388

Abstract

Purpose

The increase in autism prevalence and presentation in the media suggests a rise in public awareness. This paper aims to explore what factors (contact, knowledge and ethnicity) may be associated to positive attitudes towards individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Design/methodology/approach

An online survey examined contact with and knowledge of ASD among Black, Asian and White ethnic groups to predict public attitudes to people with ASD.

Findings

In multiple regression models, the results suggested that the level of contact predicts positive attitudes towards autism when demographic factors were accounted. The level of knowledge about autism were significantly associated to attitudes, but not consistently when demographic factors were accounted. However, differences in knowledge and attitudes to people with ASD were identified amongst Black, Asian and White ethnic groups.

Research limitations/implications

These findings have implications for policy and public health and education campaigns, including ensuring contact and knowledge of autism among the public.

Originality/value

These findings have implications for policy and public health and education campaigns, including ensuring contact and knowledge of autism among the public. Additionally, further effort is required to target public knowledge and attitudes to autism, particularly among ethnic groups. Institutional support tailored to encourage structured and unstructured contact across public domains such as education, health, social and care practices could effectively reduce prejudice between the public and people with ASD over time.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This work was funded by Economic and Social Research Council PhD Studentship. The authors thank their participants from the public who piloted and completed the survey.

Citation

Gemegah, E., Hartas, D. and Totsika, V. (2021), "Public attitudes to people with ASD: contact, knowledge and ethnicity", Advances in Autism, Vol. 7 No. 3, pp. 225-240. https://doi.org/10.1108/AIA-01-2020-0009

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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