World Autism Views Project 2011: What does the world think about autism research?

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The World Autism Views Project 2011 included three statements about the focus on research. We wanted to know if people thought that research should focus on finding the root causes of autism, on treating autism or on finding ways to make children with autism behave as other children do. We found some clear regional differences in how people responded to these three statements.

"research should focus on treatments for autism"
Around the world there was a clear consensus that this is true statement. 84% of our sample (2,079 people responded to this statement) thought this statement was true and only 8% thought is was false. There were no obviously differences between regions.

"research should focus on treatments for autism"
Again most people, everywhere, agreed with this statement. 82% of our sample (2,088 people responded to this statement) thought this statement was true and only 9% thought is was false. There were no obviously differences between regions.

"research should focus on finding ways to make children with autism behave as other children do"
This statement proved to be much more controversial. There was much less consensus and some clear regional differences in how people responded to this statement. 51% of our sample (2,076) people responded to this statement) thought this statement was true and 31% thought is was false.

The first bar chart shows the average response scores for each region. Positive scores (above the line) indicate that most of the group think the statement to be true and negative scores (below the line) indicate that most of the group think the statement to be false.

North Americans and those in Australia / New Zealand do not think (on average) that research should focus on finding ways to make children with autism behave as other children do. Those in every other region do think that this should be a focus of research. Those in Africa / the Middle East were much more likely than any other group to agree with this statement. Statistical tests showed that North America significantly differs in it's response to this statement than every other region (except Australia / New Zealand).

The second chart shows the proportion of respondents in four regions that selected each answer. Those in Africa / the Middle East were most likely to chose the answer "Definitely true", in fact 62% of those in Africa / the Middle East chose this option, only 11% of North Americans chose this answer. North Americans were much more likely to respond with "Definitely False", in fact, 35% of them did so, as opposed to 6% of those in Africa / the Middle East.

Those in Northern and Western Europe also responded very differently to those in North America. They showed a more even pattern of distribution across all five possible answers but still the most popular answer with 39% was "definitely true". Asians responded in a similar way to those in Africa / the Middle East.
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