Autism Awareness Still Needed Among Healthcare Students, Reports Survey

Autism Awareness Still Needed Among Healthcare Students, Reports Survey
Autism Awareness Still Needed Among Healthcare Students, Reports Survey

The level of education among healthcare students had little impact on their knowledge about autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a recent study has found. Findings from the study were published in Perspectives on Issues in Higher Education.

Skott Freedman, an assistant professor in the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology at Ithaca College, surveyed 252 students majoring in speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, health education, and therapeutic recreation. Through the 18-question survey, he sought to evaluate the level of ASD knowledge among students in the earliest stages of their professional education.

Variables such as level of education (eg, freshman, sophomore, junior, senior); personal experience with autistic individuals; academic exposure to information about ASD; and their perceived likelihood of working with autistic patients in the future were also analyzed.

Seniors answered with near 70% accuracy and freshmen were the second-most accurate. Students that knew ≥7 autistic individuals showed a 76.5% accuracy rate; those that knew 4–6 autistic individual showed a 70% accuracy; those that knew 1–3 autistic individuals had almost 67% correct responses; and those that knew no autistic individuals showed about 66%.

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Students that learned "A lot" about ASD in their courses answered questions correctly 77.5% of the time; those that learned "A little" answered 70%; and those that learned "Not at all" answered 64%. Also, students that planned, or suspected work in the future with autistic clients had the most accurate responses at about 70%.

Professor Freedman concluded that general ASD knowledge is encouraging but there is still room for improvement in disseminating accurate information about ASD. Common misconceptions should be addressed in initial coursework and students should have both personal and professional experiences with ASD-diagnosed clients.

For more information visit Ithaca.edu.

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