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IJMDC. 2022; 6(1): 102-109

Awareness among primary healthcare physicians of early signs of autistic spectrum disorder in children

Elham Hasan Alhifthy, Roba Abdulla AlShaban, Amal Abdullah AlZahrani, Deem Nashmi AlKhaldi, Ghadeer Tawfiq Alelawi, Balqees Nasser AlHammad, Bashayer Hussain AlNasser.


Background: Primary healthcare (PHC) physicians are often a first point of contact for children with symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and play an important role in early diagnosis. However, no studies have evaluated the knowledge levels of PHC physicians in Saudi Arabia.
Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted, in January-February 2019, among 147 PHC physicians working in PHC centers and major hospitals in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. A written questionnaire was used for data collection.
Results: The findings revealed knowledge deficits regarding early signs of ASD in children among responding PHC physicians. A significant positive association was found between the total mean knowledge scores and both job title and experience. Physicians who had received prior psychiatric training were associated with higher levels of relevant knowledge than untrained physicians.
Conclusions: The suboptimal awareness of identification of early signs and symptoms of ASD can lead to delayed diagnosis and intervention, adversely affecting the healthcare needs and quality of life for children affected. Action to improve the awareness among PHC physicians in Saudi Arabia is therefore required.

Key words: Primary healthcare, general practitioner, knowledge, autism, ASD

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