Understanding the Conceptualization of Autism in Hispanic Cultures




Hoover, Alison M.

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Although the rate of autism diagnoses is rising, Hispanic children are diagnosed at a disproportionately low rate. For Hispanic children to receive equal access to autism services, it is important to understand the reasons for disparity in diagnosis rates. The main hypothesis of the current study is that there are differences in the amount of knowledge about autism among Hispanic parents of high and low acculturation levels, and that a combination of demographic and cultural factors impacts autism knowledge. The present study examined survey responses from 42 Hispanic patients at a clinic in Austin, Texas. Socioeconomic status (SES), social support, fatalistic beliefs, religious importance, and parenting experience were found to be significant predictors of autism knowledge as assessed by the General Beliefs About Autism subscale of the Autism Survey (Stone, 1986), accounting for 41.8% of variance. Acculturation was not a significant predictor, however this may have been due to multicollinearity with other predictor variables, especially SES and religious importance in particular. Examination of the qualitative differences in the group definitions of autism allowed for an assessment of a general conceptualization of autism across levels of acculturation. Differences in knowledge of autism, as assessed by self-reported definitions of autism, between high and low acculturation groups were statistically significant {p = .032). Those in the higher acculturation group correctly described more characteristics of autism than those in the low acculturation group. Additionally, those in the low acculturation group described higher amounts of unrelated or incorrect information than those in the high acculturation group. Overall, social features of autism were most commonly described by all participants. By adding to the literature regarding conceptualization of autism within Hispanic cultures, this study will enable professionals to better identify and communicate with at-risk Hispanic families in order that children can be identified earlier and can receive early intervention, leading to more positive treatment outcomes.



family relationships, Hispanic Americans, autistic children, parents


Hoover, A. M. (2010). Understanding the conceptualization of autism in Hispanic cultures (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas.


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