How Religious Beliefs Influence Understanding on Disability: A Study of Muslim
Family’s Perception on Autism*

Hersinta1
STIKOM The London School of Public Relations Jakarta

Abstract
Religion, spirituality and culture are important influences on health beliefs and behaviors, which leads to implications on health communication area. Religious, spiritual beliefs and cultural perspective also play important roles in how individuals interpret and explain disability, such as in understanding the Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In communal culture country like Indonesia, where Islam is the dominant religion, Muslim families tend to have strong intergenerational family ties and values of collectivism. Therefore, this study aims to find out about whether and how religious beliefs inform parents’ understanding of how to raise special needs children. Data were drawn from in-depth interviews with 5 Muslim parents who have autistic children. Results indicate that religion helps them to accept and understand the condition of their children, and affect their childrearing goals to make the children live independently and find the children’s best potential. Religious perspective also brought them to opt for alternative medicine and holistic treatment in order to seek progress for their ASD children.

Keywords: Autism, Religion, parenting, childrearing

*This paper was presented and published in Jogja International Conference on Communication, UPN Veteran Jogjakarta, November 21-22, 2012

1
Mass Communication Dept. STIKOM The London School of Public Relations, Jakarta
Corresponding Author:
STIKOM LSPR Campus B, Sudirman Park, Jl. K.H. Mas Mansyur Kav. 35, Jakarta
10220
Email: hersinta@lspr.edu