Conducting caregiver focus groups on autism in the context of an international research collaboration: Logistical and methodological lessons learned in South Africa

Autism. 2023 Apr;27(3):751-761. doi: 10.1177/13623613221117012. Epub 2022 Aug 23.


Most of the autism research to date has been conducted in high-income countries, with children and families typically from White, upper-middle-income backgrounds. However, we know there are significant inequalities that exist which influence how autistic individuals from diverse, underserved communities can access services they need. As many of these individuals have not been included in the majority of autism research to date, there is much we do not know about these individuals' life experiences, which are critically needed to better inform the development and implementation of care for families from historically underrepresented groups. In this article, we describe the research process we took to conduct focus group discussions with 22 caregivers of young autistic children living in Cape Town, South Africa. We specifically describe the lessons we learned in implementing these focus groups and provide recommendations aimed at how to best reduce logistical and methodological challenges moving forward to improve research conducted in similar low-resource contexts.

Keywords: autism spectrum disorders; caregivers; focus group discussions; logistical challenges; qualitative research; research ethics; research methods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder*
  • Autistic Disorder*
  • Caregivers
  • Child
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • South Africa