• Home
  • Cherry Picked - Autism intervention studies lack diversity, researcher says

Autism intervention studies lack diversity, researcher says

Monday, March 28, 2016

LAWRENCE —Autism affects children from all walks of life, and education professionals need scientifically based interventions to help those affected develop reading and other life skills. However, a recent study has found that the research used to identify “evidence-based practices” very rarely reports racial and ethnic status of its participants.

That presents a problem because response to an intervention is not guaranteed and it’s not always clear why one child will respond positively to certain methods while another will not, a University of Kansas researcher has found.

“I think teachers and researchers can tend to categorize these methods with the label evidence-based practices and assume they will be effective when that’s not always the case,” said Jason Travers, assistant professor of special education at the University of Kansas and a co-author of the study. “In our field we’ve been working to identify practices that are effective for students with autism. By clarifying how racial and ethnic diversity of participants impacts intervention effects, we can increase the probability of educational benefit.”

Travers and co-authors examined 408 peer-reviewed, published studies of evidence-based practices for autism intervention. Only 73 of them, or 17.9 percent, reported the race, ethnicity or nationality of participants. And of those, white children comprised a large majority. Of the nearly 2,500 participants in the studies, only 770 reported race, and 489 or 63.5 percent were white. Multiracial participants comprised 20.6 percent; black and Asian participants represented 6.8 percent and 5.2 percent, respectively; Hispanic/Latino comprised 2.5 percent; Middle Eastern participants made up 1.3 percent, and only one Native American participant was reported.

The study was co-authored by Elizabeth West, Talya Kemper, Lisa Liberty, Debra Cote, Meaghan McCollow and L. Lynn Stansberry Brusnahan and was published in the Journal of Special Education. The authors are members of the diversity committee on the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

In the field of special education and autism research, there is a debate about whether race is an important factor to consider in whether a young person will respond to an evidence-based practice. The authors argue it is important to consider.

“We looked into race because other researchers suggested it may be underreported in the intervention resistance literature. Race is also a proxy to other factors we need to know about, such as poverty, nutrition, socioeconomic status, exposure to toxins, parents’ primary language, immigrant status, whether parents were likely to get prenatal care and many others that can be deleterious to educational outcomes,” Travers said.

One concern with the studies not considering race is most of them used single-case experimental designs, which only require one or a few participants. The authors confirm that autism can be a difficult topic around which to build multiparticipant studies. It can also be difficult to recruit and retain participants who lack resources often necessary to take part in such studies. For that reason, the authors call for grants from federal and research funding agencies specifically for studies that are designed to recruit a diverse body of participants.

“We’ve relied heavily on single-case experimental design in autism research,” Travers said. “Participant race isn’t always something that influences whether an intervention is effective in a single-case experiment. But it’s worth reporting because race may be associated with other factors that may influence responding. The low reporting overall and the large percentage of white participants may be a problem of convenience or resources. But this presents a risk of assuming an intervention will be as effective for diverse learners with autism.”

The researchers argue that teachers of students with autism are by and large passionate, driven professionals who want to do the best for their students but might not be able to do so if they are not given the best possible tools. It is also important to consider that an evidence-based practice that is effective for some children may not be for others. By clarifying who benefits from different interventions and why, we might better serve racially and ethnically diverse students with autism, Travers added.

“Research is needed to A) better understand reluctance to participate among diverse members of society; B) improve recruitment and retention of diverse participants in autism spectrum disorder intervention research and C) contribute to the development of standardized methods of collecting and storing detailed information about participants that are conducive to systematic reviews and meta-analyses of intervention efficacy for learners with distinct profiles,” the authors wrote.


Read the latest MUSE News!

Find out what KU's Museum Studies Program and our alumni are up to:

September 2017 Newsletter
January 2017 Newsletter
 

 

Museum Events

Approaches to Teaching and Learning African American History
Thursday, January 18 | 1 p.m.-3 p.m.
The Commons, Spooner Hall, University of Kansas campus
This session will engage a variety of texts and academic disciplines and will benefit instructors teaching the 2017-18 KU Common Book, Citizen: An American Lyric. Please RSVP to firstyear@ku.edu.

Public Lecture: Representations of African American History in U.S. Politics and Popular Culture
Thursday, January 18 | 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont St.
Free and open to the public. Dr. Pero Dagbovie will speak on representations of African American history in U.S. politics and popular culture as part of the Langston Hughes Center Diverse Dialogues on Race and Culture series.

What's in a Frame?
Friday, January 19 | Noon-1 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, Dolph Simons Family Gallery, 316
1301 Mississippi St.
Join resident frame specialist and exhibition technician Dan Coester to learn how frames both protect paintings and shape our experiences with works of art. This behind-the-frames discussion focuses on significant restoration work completed for paintings on view in Civic Leader and Art Collector: Sallie Casey Thayer and an Art Museum for KU and includes examples of the restoration process and frames awaiting treatment.

Art Cart: Painted Fans
Saturday, January 20 | 1 p.m.-4 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, Sam and Connie Perkins Central Court, 317
1301 Mississippi St.
The Art Cart is a drop-in activity station where children and grown-ups enjoy hands-on art projects together, taking inspiration from original works of art. After traveling the world, Sallie Casey Thayer donated her collection of objects to KU to form what is now the Spencer Museum of Art. Learn about Mrs. Thayer and create a painted folding fan to start your own collection.

Slow Art Sunday: Steel Wool Peignoir
Sunday, January 21 | 2 p.m.-3 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, Kemper Family Foundations Balcony, 408
1301 Mississippi St.
Slow down at the Spencer and spend time getting to know one great work of art. Slow Art Sunday features one work for visitors to contemplate and converse about with Museum staff. In January, get to know Steel Wool Peignoir by Mimi Smith.

Science on Tap: The Cambrian: More than just Trilobites
Wednesday, January 24 | 7:30 p.m.
Free State Brewing Co., 636 Massachusetts St.
The Cambrian is a time in Earth’s history when many modern animal relatives make their first appearance. It is also a time when many bizarre animals without modern relatives appear in the fossil record. At this Science on Tap, Dr. Julien Kimmig will talk about the diversity of animals during this amazing period and what it can teach us about the future of life on earth. 

Career Close-ups: Developing a Career in the Museum World
Friday, January 26 | 2 p.m.-4 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, Auditorium 309
1301 Mississippi St.
Undergraduate and graduate students are invited to explore how any major can lead to a career in a cultural organization. A panel of museum professionals will share their experiences, followed by a networking reception and behind-the-scenes tours of KU’s museums. This year’s panelists include: Dina Bennett (Mulvane Art Museum, Washburn University), Glenn North (Black Archives of Mid-America), and Adrianne Russell (Cabinet of Curiosities). Advance registration is required at www.spencerart.ku.edu/career-closeups. Please register by January 24. Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/476618689399321/
Sponsored by the Spencer Museum of Art, KU Natural History Museum, University Career Center, and the Museum Studies Program.

Final Friday: Community and Culture Closing Celebration
Friday, January 26 | 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
Watkins Museum of History, 1047 Massachusetts St.
The Watkins, in partnership with the Max Kade Center and the Lawrence Opera Theatre, present an evening of 19th-century German-American music and cuisine.

Discovery Day: Celebrating Kansas
Sunday, January 28 | 1 p.m.-3 p.m.
KU Natural History Museum, 1345 Jayhawk Blvd.
In honor of Kansas Day, join us for hands-on activities that are all about Kansas wildlife, plants and fossils. 

Kenneth A. Spencer Lecture: An Evening with Eve L. Ewing: Poetry in Context
Wednesday, January 31 | 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts St.
Eve L. Ewing is a sociologist, poet, essayist, artist, and educator whose research focuses on racism, social inequality, urban policy, and the impact of these forces on American public schools and the lives of young people. Dr. Ewing earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University and is recognized as a leader and social influencer, especially in conversations involving academia, writing, black women, and the intersection of politics and popular culture. Sponsored by The Commons.

University in the Art Museum for Graduate Students
Thursday, February 1 | 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, 1301 Mississippi St.
University in the Art Museum introduces graduate students to opportunities for object-based teaching, learning, and research through collaborative partnerships with the Spencer Museum of Art. This workshop includes discussions led by graduate students in the departments of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Geography; and Atmospheric Science. Advance registration is required by Monday, January 29. Register online at https://spencerart.ku.edu/uam.

Extraordinary Animals: Awesome Adaptations
Sunday, February 4 | 1 p.m.-3 p.m.
KU Natural History Museum, 1345 Jayhawk Blvd.
At this new monthly animal event, parents and children are invited to learn about animals of Kansas. Museum Animal Specialist Ashley Welton will offer presentations about animal adaptations using touchable specimens from the museums collections at 1:15, 1:45 and 2:15 pm. 

FeBREWary at the Watkins
Thursday, February 15 | 6 p.m.-9 p.m.
Watkins Museum of History, 1047 Massachusetts St.
The Watkins, in partnership with Lawrence Beer Co., presents an evening of beer, food, and knowledge! Enjoy beer and a fascinating talk on brewing provided by Lawrence Beer Co., plus food from local restaurants and an informal museum tour. Tickets are $15 for DCHS members, $20 for non-members. You may sign up online or contact the museum at 785-841-4109. We recommend buying in advance. Ages 21 and over only, please. More information and registration.

Winter Table: An Evening of Herpetology
Wednesday, February 28 | 6:30 p.m.
KU Natural History Museum, 1345 Jayhawk Blvd.
A celebration of more than 100 years of KU herpetology research programs and the careers of Linda Trueb and Bill Duellman. Explore the Natural History Museum's reptile and amphibian collections and enjoy appetizers and drinks. Dine in the Panorama Gallery with KU herpetology scientists and students conducting reptile and amphibian research across the globe. 

6:30 pm: appetizers, drinks and science salon
7:00 pm: dinner and program
$50 per person 

Reserve your space now at the 2018 Winter Table by ordering tickets online. Tickets are $50 per person. You may also call 785-864-4450 to purchase by phone or you may purchase tickets at the museum lobby during business hours. Questions? Contact biodiversity@ku.edu or 785-864-4450.

Home to 50+ departments, centers, and programs, the School of the Arts, and the School of Public Affairs and Administration
KU offers courses in 40 languages
No. 1 ranking in city management and urban policy —U.S. News and World Report
One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
—ALA
23rd nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets," Military Times