This qualitative study aimed to understand how community-level cultural beliefs affect families' and professionals' care for children with autism and developmental delays in immigrant communities, as a first step towards promoting early identification and access to early intervention services. The study was part of the larger New York City (NYC) Korean Community Autism Project, which was designed to identify strategies to increase awareness of autism and reduce delays in treatment seeking within the NYC Korean-American community. Our study elicited early childcare workers' and church leaders' beliefs about autism and developmental disorders and, in particular, early intervention. We also elicited responses to newly developed outreach materials targeting this community. An inductive approach was used to identify concepts and categories associated with autism. Our study confirmed that discomfort, stigma and discrimination are the prevailing community attitudes toward autism and developmental disorders in the Korean-American community. Families' and professionals' understanding of autism and their care for children are affected by these community beliefs. Approaching immigrant communities with general information about child development and education rather than directly talking about autism and developmental disorders is likely to engage more families and professionals in need for diagnostic evaluation and early intervention for autism.
Keywords: autism; community-level cultural beliefs; families’ and professionals’ beliefs; outreach strategies.