Autisim Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges that range from mild to serious.
Great strides have been made in defining and diagnosing autism. But the mysteries of this disorder have not yet all been discovered as the prevalence is increasing at a faster rate than any other developmental disability in children.
There is no known cause for autism, and diagnosing autism relies on clinical judgment and behavioral observations. This has prompted School of Education and Human Development Assistant Professors Bryn Harris and Erin Barton to partner for a closer look at autism. Their research “Evaluating Autism Diagnostic Tools for Use with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Populations” garnered a grant this fall from the Center for Faculty Development.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates an average of one in 110 children in the U.S. has an ASD. Data also shows this disorder is on average 4 to 5 times more likely to occur in boys than in girls.
While progress has been made in early detection, children of culturally and linguistically diverse families are misdiagnosed more often and identified later than white children. Barton and Harris recognize that current diagnostic tools may not be sensitive to cultural variations or family expectations around social and communicative behaviors.
Autism and early childhood special education have been the focus of Barton’s work. While Harris’ emphasis is school psychology and culturally and linguistically responsive psychoeducational assessment and services. Teaming up on this effort is “a perfect blending of our areas,” said Barton.
For this research said Harris, “We’ll evaluate factors including socio-economic status, access to care and the role of English as a second language.” Understanding these disparities could have profound effects on educational systems and treatment research.