Providing early detection and early intervention for autism spectrum disorder in South Africa: stakeholder perspectives from the Western Cape province.


We set out to examine key stakeholder perspectives on early detection and intervention for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in South Africa. Early detection and intervention improves child and family outcomes and lessens long-term costs. We focused on stakeholders in the Western Cape province, one of the better-resourced in terms of healthcare. Eight senior management level stakeholders, two each from government's Health, Education, and Social Development, and the non-profit sector were identified using purposive sampling. In-depth interviews focused on key implementation- related themes. The National Integrated Early Childhood Development Policy was the most relevant to early detection and intervention. This policy, however, is not ASD specific. This lack of specificity is in keeping with an emerging theme: ASD was only seen within the context of other developmental disabilities, particularly by Health and Social Development. Specific ASD early detection and intervention may not currently align with Health and Social Development departmental goals. These departments are primarily responsible for identifying and providing services and financial support to young children with ASD. Increased ASD knowledge and local South African statistics on prevalence, burden and associated costs may alter this approach. At this time, ASD early intervention may be more closely aligned with Education department goals.