Autism in Urban Context: Linking Heterogeneity with Health and Service Disparities
Professor Olga Solomon is the Primary Investigator of a two year multi-method, ethnographic project that examines how race, gender, socio-economic status, family culture and communication during clinical encounters affect the acquisition of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) diagnosis and related services for African American children living in Los Angeles. This study follows a cohort of 16 African American children diagnosed with ASD, their primary caregivers and extended kin and social networks, and the practitioners who serve them, to document the families’ trajectories to an ASD diagnosis.
The project is being carried out at two study sites: USC University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles (USC UCEDD at CHLA) and San Gabriel/Pomona Regional center. The interdisciplinary team of researchers and clinicians includes three members from the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, three members from CHLA UCEDD and one from the Department of Preventive Medicine at Keck School of Medicine.
This study examines heterogeneity in ASD in relation to three previously unexamined domains:
- Barriers to and opportunities for African American children receiving timely and accurate diagnosis and appropriate services.
- Patterns of communication among African American caregivers and practitioners during clinical encounters that are vital for developing partnership and that are vulnerable to misunderstanding.
- African American caregivers’ knowledge and expertise about ASDs and the social networks relevant to gathering information about existing evaluations, interventions and services.
The results of this project will identify opportunities for and barriers to the development of collaboration among families and practitioners in a timely and efficient ASD diagnosis and interventions for African American children.