KNOWLEDGE AND IGNORANCE OF GERMAN GENERAL PRACTITIONERS ABOUT AUTISM
Jennifer Kirchner1,2, Sara Appelmann2, Christoph Chwiekowsky2, Sebastian Dern2, Rainer Döhle2, Robert Elias2, Ernest Götz2, Peter Gottschlich2, C. Grambert2, Dorit Kliemann1,2, Fabian Melzow2, Oliver Speer2, Steven Purwins2, Isabel Dziobek1,2
1 Freie Universität Berlin
2 Autismus-Forschungs-Kooperation (AFK) Berlin
Background: The Autism Research Cooperation (Autismus-Forschungs-Kooperation, AFK) is a research project by both persons belonging to the autistic spectrum and scientists at the Freie Universität Berlin. The AFK conducts research studies to answer questions that are considered relevant by autistic adults.
Question: Based on negative experiences of autistic adults with their medical care, general practioners (GP) were questioned about their knowledge about autism.
Method: The knowledge about autism (diagnistic criteria, prejudices, strengths) was determined using the questionnaire „knowledge about autism“ (Kirchner et al., 2008). The questionnaire was completed by 34 GP at the congress of the German Society for General and Family Medicine (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Allgemeinmedizin und Familienmedizin, Berlin, 09 September 2008). The control group – 20 experts in the field of autism (psychologists and psychiatrists from university hospitals and therapy centers for autism respectively in Germany and in Switzerland) – filled in the questionnaire as well. In addition, 48 persons of the general poulation were interviewed.
Results: The knowledge of GPs about both the diagnostic criteria for autism and the strengths of autistic persons did not differ from the knowledge of the general population (both > 0.14). In contrast, the experts showed significant higher knowledge (both p < 0.05). Additionally, unlike the experts, the GPs underestimated the prevalence of autism (p < 0.01).
Discussion and conclusion:
GPs do not know more about autism than the general population. Therefore adequate medical care for autistic individuals cannot be guaranteed. In addition, referral to a specialist for early and proper diagnosis of autism, is likely delayed. The AFK hopes that by feedbacking those study results, awareness about autism prevalence and about the particular needs of autistic patients will be raised among general practitioners.
Conflicts of interests /