Honors Theses

Date of Award

Spring 5-2-2021

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis



First Advisor

Laura Johnson

Second Advisor

Carey Dowling

Third Advisor

Grace Rivera

Relational Format



Advancements in the diagnosis, understanding, and treatment of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have yet to benefit children and families struggling with ASD in Nigeria and other African countries. Not only is there a scarcity of research on ASD in sub- Saharan Africa, but also a lack of mental health and special education services and a lack of understanding of the sociocultural considerations that must inform culturally responsive care. As such, this study explored the sociocultural conceptualizations of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in Nigeria and how these conceptualizations affect the experiences and care of people with autism. The unique culturally patterned pathway with which Nigerians seek care can be examined utilizing Arthur Kleinman’s theory of the explanatory mode. Key components of explanatory models include etiology, social and cultural meaning, seriousness and course, fears, help seeking, and treatment. To explore Nigerian beliefs about ASD, a comprehensive literature review was conducted which included criteria for searching studies from Nigeria, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the U.S. Next, material was organized into Kleinman’s explanatory model framework in order to illuminate the sociocultural and lived experience through the help-seeking pathway, from recognition of the problem of ASD to treatment outcomes. Finally, case material gleaned from two key informant interviews was included to provide details and support for literature. The literature review was conducted by loose applications of the SPIDER tool, while the results were analyzed using explanatory models. Overall, this analysis suggests that there are major gaps in the research of ASD across Africa. In the case of Nigeria, there is evidence that negative beliefs about autism have contributed to failing help seeking patterns. Despite these inadequacies, therehave been significant efforts to create inclusive educational options that can create a more direct pathway to care. Providing educators and other stakeholders with the tools to educate their communities about autism will be a significant step towards the progress needed to transform the lived experiences of Nigerians with autism.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



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