Study Finds Early Childhood Educators Can Effectively Screen Students For Autism In Underserved Communities

17 May

Studies presented at IMFAR this year addresses the problem of how to effectively screen children for autism in underserved communities. Many studies have shown that the rates of identified autism are lower in racial and ethnic minorities and those with lower socio-economic status. For example, CDC autism prevalence estimates routinely show lower estimated prevalence for Hispanic or African American students. This suggests the possibility that a large fraction of the autism population remains unidentified and under served.

The study authors propose using teachers to actively participate in the community screening efforts. From Study Finds Early Childhood Educators Can Effectively Screen Students For Autism In Underserved Communities

In a study with national implications, researchers at Children’s Specialized Hospital found that in underserved communities using teachers to screen for autism in preschools and day care centers is more effective than the current system that relies solely on parents and pediatricians to identify the disorder.

Two studies from this group presented at IMFAR are: Parent-Teacher Agreement on An Autism Screener in An Underserved Preschool Population and Feasibility of Autism Screening in Underserved Populations.

From the news story:

“We found that unless we go out into underserved communities we are going to be missing many children who have autism,” said lead researcher Dr. Yvette Janvier, developmental/behavioral pediatrician and medical director – Toms River, Children’s Specialized Hospital. “This is the first study to look at using teachers in preschools and day care centers to screen for autism.”

The idea is so simple. Probably not surprising to many of us. From my own experience, I recall early intervention therapists telling us that they couldn’t tell parents about suspicions of autism for the children. They weren’t just not being engaged in the screening process, they were being told to keep quiet.

If the name of Dr. Yvette Janvier sounds familiar, she was a member of the previous Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC).

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