Research Bite: Lack of Diversity in Research on Autism

May 19, 2016
Kathleen Callaghan, CCC-SLP
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Research BiteCalling all SLPs! A new study published in the Journal of Special Education found a lack of cultural and ethnic diversity in research done with children with autism. Researchers at the University of Washington found that out of the studies that report race, 63.5% of participants were white and 20.6% were multi-racial. In contrast, black, Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, and Native American participants all fell below 10%.  The findings call out differences in when and how children with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are diagnosed, as well as cite the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) as one evidenced-based practice that may not translate to children/families in this population.
So what does this mean for SLPs who serve multi-cultural children with autism? Awareness, plain and simple. When you have a culturally and linguistically diverse family on your caseload, make sure that you are really delving into their background, how they communicate, and what will work best for them.  In other words, model a true evidenced-based practice by incorporating both the research AND client/family values.