World Autism Views Project 2011: A gift or a tragedy?

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Does the world consider autism to be a gift or a tragedy?

We included two items in the World Autism Views 2001 survey to capture general attitudes towards autism. The results show that in general people had a positive attitude towards autism. 63% agreed with the statement that "autism is a gift to humanity" and only 37% agreed that "autism is a tragedy for any family".

"autism is a tragedy for any family"

In response to this statement we found significant regional differences. The first bar chart "Average Regional Response Scores" shows the average scores for each region. Remember that a positive score (above the line) indicates belief that the statement is true while a negative score (below the line) indicates the belief that the statement in false. The scores from North Americans are in the middle of the range. If we take this as a point of comparison then statistical tests showed that three regions were significantly more likely to believe that "autism is a tragedy for any family" - The Middle East / Africa, Eastern Europe and Northern / Western Europe. One region - Latin America - was significantly more likely to think this statement false than North Americans.

When we looked more closely at three regions - North America, Latin America and Eastern Europe - we see a difference in the way people responded to this statement. Most of the Latin Americans chose "Definitely False" (62% of them) and very few from this regions chose any of the other answers. There seems to be a clear consensus in Latin America that autism is not a tragedy. The North Americans were also most likely to choose "Definitely False" (37% of them did) although more of the North Americans chose other options. The Eastern Europeans on the other hand were almost evenly divided on this issue. Almost as many people agreed as disagreed that "autism is a tragedy for any family". 43% of Eastern Europeans thought this statement to be true and 45% thought it to be false.

"autism is a gift to humanity"

In response to this statement we again found significant regional differences in comparison to North America. Although all regions on average agreed that "autism is a gift to humanity" there were differences in how strongly the group agreed and how many of them actually disagreed. The first bar chart "Average Regional Response Scores" shows the average scores for each region. Remember that a positive score (above the line) indicates belief that the statement is true while a negative score (below the line) indicates the belief that the statement in false. The regional average scores for the statement 'autism is a gift to humanity" show that North Americans were more likely than any other group to agree that autism is a gift to humanity. Every other regional group (except Australia / New Zealand) showed statistically significantly lower scores (indicating more people thought it false that autism is a gift to humanity).

Again we looked more closely at the same three regions - North America, Latin America and Eastern Europe - we see a difference in the way people responded to this statement. The vast majority of the North Americans (71%) chose "Definitely True" in response to the statement that "autism is a gift to humanity" and 16% chose "Probably True", very few North Americans chose any other option. The Latin Americans showed a similar pattern, 57% chose "Definitely True" in response to the statement that "autism is a gift to humanity" and 15% chose "Probably True". The Eastern Europeans were again more divided on the topic, although still the majority (50%) believed it either "definitely" or "probably" true that autism is a gift to humanity.
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