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Title: The knowledge, understanding and perceptions of professional nurses, working in primary health care clinics, about autism spectrum disorder
Authors: Williams, Neil Arnold 
Issue Date: 2018
Abstract: Background Abstract The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States has found that more children than ever before are being classified as having autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) (Chiri and Warfield 2011: 1081). According to Matenge (2014: 1), ASD is a pervasive developmental disorder characterised by two essential features: a combination of impairments in social interaction and social communication, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behaviour, interests and activities. Malcolm-Smith et al. (2013: 4) report that data on the incidence, prevalence, and impact of ASD in South Africa are almost entirely lacking. No epidemiological studies of ASD have been conducted in the country (Malcolm- Smith et al. 2013: 4). Diagnostic and intervention services, particularly at state level, are scarce (Malcolm-Smith et al. 2013: 4). Hence, those that are in place are heavily overburdened. Of particular concern for South Africa are research findings indicating that ASD is under-identified in low socioeconomic status communities, so in these contexts ASD often goes undiagnosed, or is diagnosed late (Malcolm-Smith et al. 2013: 4). Matenge (2014: 19) argues that there is, therefore, a need to assess the level of knowledge, understanding and the experiences of South African nurses regarding autism, as they are usually the first professionals that families of children with autism contact. Research purpose The purpose of this research was to determine the knowledge, understanding and perceptions of professional nurses who work in primary health clinics in eThekwini Health District, KwaZulu-Natal, regarding ASD. Research design A quantitative, non-experimental, descriptive research survey design was utilised. A self-reporting questionnaire was used to collect data. Sampling and sample size Simple random sampling was used to determine which clinics in the eThekwini health district would be part of the study. The sample size for the clinics was thirty four, of those thirty were eThekwini municipality clinics and four KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health clinics. These clinics were utilised and provided the 275 professional nurses needed. The sample was calculated with a margin of error and an alpha value of 0.05; the researcher needed a minimum of 275 respondents. The researcher selected the respondents utilising non-probability, convenience sampling. Data analysis Data was analysed with the assistance of the statistician, using SPSS version 22. Descriptive statistics were used to explore differences between or among groups (Grove, Burns and Gray 2013: 217). Inferential statistics are used to draw conclusions regarding the differences between groups in the population from which the samples are drawn and the relationship between the variables in the population (Morgan et al. 2015: 84). Both descriptive and inferential statistics were used to analyse data in this study. Conclusion and findings It was found that the average professional nurse working in a primary healthcare clinic has 65.8% knowledge and understanding of ASD. Of particular concern is that the majority of respondents 51% (n=141) did not know or understand that the child with autism loves routine which is a key symptom in making a diagnosis of ASD, which may lead to late, or missed diagnosis. Eighty eight percent (n = 242) of respondents felt that they would benefit from further training on the identification and diagnosis of ASD. It was also found that respondents that have completed the Psychiatric Nursing Science course were more knowledgeable about ASD and confident in diagnosing ASD and counselling parents on ASD and available ASD services in the community. Recommendations The researcher recommended that: Autism spectrum disorder to be included in the curriculum for nurses training and that regular in-service training be done to keep the professional nurses up to date with on new information related to ASD. It was also recommended that all children should be screened for ASD at 18 and 24 months at all PHCs in eThekwini district and that posters on the signs and symptoms of ASD should be displayed at primary healthcare clinics in full view of patients, parents and staff
Description: Submitted in fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Masters in Health Science, Durban University of Technology, Durban, South Africa, 2018.
Appears in Collections:Theses and dissertations (Health Sciences)

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