Autism: stigma and the role of ethnicity and culture

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Dr Chris Papadapolous, Principal Lecturer of Public Health at the University of Bedfordshire explores the stigma surrounding autism and the role of ethnicity and culture also. He conducted a study which found results.

He found that stigma can be as a result of negativity towards a target group. This can be negative attitudes, negative knowledge and negative behaviours. Stigma can relate to race, but this article will explore how negative autism stigma can be firstly. The damage stigma causes is unnecessary, preventable, complex and extensive. Autism stigma needs careful and urgent attention and it impacts on a wide range of psychosocial phenomena.

Firstly it can cause problems in employment. Whilst it is against the law, firms still discriminate against people with autism. Not all, but some. Redman et al reports that only 15% of adults with autism are in full time employment. Further, an independent study showed that people with autism had experienced workplace stigma and discrimination.

There is social and emotional loneliness also. The Bancroft et al 2012 survey showed that people with autism have little or very few friends while 66% of adults said their friend was their carer. This problem, and the one above is certainly due to the stigma of autism discrimination.

People with autism also experience hate crime and victimisation and this has disastrous psychological consequences. The other forms of stigma are ‘mate crime’, when someone pretends to be a genuine friend but secretly isn’t, and also mental health problems can be caused as a consequence of stigma. And the response of this is a double stigma, because they are then facing stigma for both their autism and their mental health.

The other form of stigma that people experience is the role that ethnicity and cultural context play in the production of stigmatised attitudes. Anglin et al found a link between race and mental illness. For example African Americans were more likely to have discrimination against their mental health, than white Americans.

Ethnicity plays a part in health inequalities because black or Asian people are more likely to have access to healthcare help than other people. A nationally representative probability sample of 1241 respondents participated in a telephone survey. Although African Americans believed that those with mental health problems were more likely to be violent, therefore the response is the African Americans are more likely to discriminate against mental health than white people. Adding to this, the study also found that people with higher levels of faith/religion are more likely to discriminate.

To conclude this article has shown the disappointment surrounding autism discrimination and how race and in particular religion relate to this.


Autism stigma and the role of ethnicity and culture

Written by Claire Collier

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