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Assessment of Parental Knowledge, Awareness, and Perception About Autism Spectrum Disorders in Aseer Region, Southwestern Saudi Arabia.

BACKGROUND: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects young children in social relatedness and communication besides other characteristics. A community's awareness and early intervention services in diagnosing and treating autistic children are essential for preventing the expected complications, eg language delay, social interaction, and intellectual ability.

AIM: To assess the parent's knowledge and perceptions regarding autism and its associated clinical features and effects.

METHODOLOGY: A cross-sectional study was conducted targeting all available parents aged 18 years or more living in Aseer region. Data were collected using a self-reported questionnaire from randomly selected parents who attended outpatient clinics at Abha Maternity and Children Hospital and Aseer Central Hospital. Parents' knowledge regarding autism was assessed covering general knowledge, clinical features, social effects, consequences, and curability.

RESULTS: A total of 477 parents participated. Parents' ages ranged from 18 to 85 years. 261 (54.7%) parents were male and 216 (45.3%) were females. Nearly 65.6% of parents were university graduates and 28.3% had a secondary level of education. About 50.9% of the parents know that genetics play a major role in causing autism, 69.6% think that most children with autism have special talents or abilities, 64.2% know that delayed language development is one of the main symptoms of autism, 61.2% also know that repetitive movements of the hands and head are a common symptom of autism. About 36.9% of parents think that diagnosing a child with autism will lead to discrimination against the child, 33.3% of parents think that autism is a rare condition in this country compared to the West.

CONCLUSION: The study showed that parents had poor knowledge levels regarding autism and its related clinical features, especially male parents with low levels of education. On the other hand, their perception of the disease and its frequency in the study area was satisfactory.

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