Little is known about the way autism is interpreted and accepted among the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) populations in the UK. This report summarises a Symposium on autism in the UK-BAME community in 2018, organised by Autism Voice UK, Participatory Autism Research Collective and the Critical Autism and Disabilities Studies Research Group at London South Bank University.
The stance a family or community takes about a condition such as autism is influenced by their cultural background. The aims of the Symposium were to highlight different perspectives about autism in BAME communities and to preserve the cultural dignity of the community in supporting autistic members. Beliefs about autism, its diagnosis and acceptance of and support for autistic people from a specific cultural perspective of BAME communities must be cautiously interpreted by autism professionals because beliefs vary among different cultural groups.
Thematic analysis of feedback from participants yielded the following foci. Firstly, cultural, ethnic and religious sensitivities were important to participants who felt that these were often ignored by non-BAME professionals. Secondly, the need for collaboration to improve autism awareness within the community and understanding by professionals of the intersectionality between autism and identity in BAME families was prioritised. Thirdly, issues around feelings of stigma were common, but delegates felt that these were not well understood beyond people identifying as BAME.