Purpose: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong developmental disability characterised by difficulties in social interaction and social communication, and restricted and repetitive behaviour (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Despite its prevalence the world over, there is a paucity of research in some areas such as education, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. This paper attempts to address the gap by exploring teachers’ understanding of ASD in Nigeria.
Method: Using an adapted version of the Knowledge About Childhood Autism Among Health Workers (KCAHW) questionnaire (Bakare et al, 2008), a survey was conducted among 177 mainstream primary teachers from Lagos State (112 from eleven urban schools and 65 from four rural schools).
Results: The total mean score on the Adapted KCAHW questionnaire among all the participating teachers was 10.81 ± 4.13 out of a possible total of 16. The mean score for urban teachers was 11.21 ± 4.31, while the mean score for rural teachers was 10.11 ± 3.75. In total, 46% of the urban teachers and 31% of the rural teachers demonstrated a generally accurate knowledge of ASD, with 15% (23 urban teachers and 4 rural teachers) of the sample answering all questions correctly. Over 50% of urban teachers and almost 70% of rural teachers surveyed had only a low or moderate understanding of ASD.
Conclusions: This research supports previous studies that identified low professional knowledge and understanding of ASD, and a need for improved professional education and training.
Limitations: The focus was on only one state within Nigeria, and only on mainstream primary schools. Further research is necessary across the educational age range as well as different geographical areas in the country.