Autism in the Canadian Arctic: how might Inuit traditional knowledge Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ), and Elders’ teachings inform Western biomedical understandings of Autism etiology and associated challenging behaviours?
Limited data are available on how Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects Inuit families living in remote Arctic communities in Nunavut (NU). In Canada, 1 in 66 children is diagnosed with ASD. A neurodevelopmental condition, ASD is characterized by impediments in communication and social interaction. A significant primary health concern due to its life-altering impact on families and the high cost to society of providing supportive ASD services. While there are robust autism programs available in some Canadian jurisdictions, no specific programs exist in NU. Nunavummiut (inhabitants of Nunavut) living in remote communities must travel thousands of kilometers to southern hospitals (Ottawa, Edmonton, and Winnipeg) to receive pediatric assessment, therapies (physio, occupational, speech, and behaviour), and counselling. Emerging from concerns of Nunavummiut families, the proposed study aims to 1. gather family, education, and health service provider perspectives to outline the day to day challenges and obstacles faced by care providers for children with autistic behaviours in remote communities of NU; and 2. Support the development of ASD services and program objectives that reflect Inuit specific frameworks of child development, family and community support. By embracing Inuit methodology of Piliriqatigiinniq (working together for the common good), this study is a timely engagement that responds to Qikiqtani Truth Commission’s Call for immediate government action to provide people of NU equitable and accessible programs and services at a local-level. Building on community partnerships consistent with Inuit knowledge production and self-determination this study will truly service the needs of Nunavummiut by understanding what strategies and health services (if any) Inuit seek and value when caring for children who display ASD behaviours.