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Inclusion of Racially and Ethnically Diverse Populations in ASD Intervention Research

Currently, racially and ethnically diverse populations remain underrepresented in ASD research. Consequentially, children from minority groups are misdiagnosed or identified later than white children. Considering that the United States is becoming increasingly ethnically diverse, it is crucial to study the effectiveness among racially/ethnically diverse populations with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Results from this study highlight the need to actively recruit and encourage racially diverse populations to report race, ethnicity, or nationality (REN) information to research studies.

This paper examined studies published between 2000 and 2016, and across 79 studies only 17 studies reported information on the REN of participants with ASD. The paper highlights the range of culturally appropriate social and communicative behaviors impact intervention in a variety of ways. For example, behavioral expectations for children of different cultures can impact the services provided. Cultures influence diagnosis. The authors did a great job of discussing the need for health care professionals to correctly identify the behavioral indicators of ASD in children from underrepresented groups. Another strength of this paper is that the authors acknowledge that additional replications of their finding need to be made in order to discover specific intervention types for diverse populations.

One drawback of this research paper is that is does not mention why the regression results indicated there were an increasing percentage of studies that reported participant race and ethnicity over the years. Perhaps, future research could discuss ways in which children from underrepresented groups could have greater visibility in ASD intervention research. The authors limited their search procedures by journal and thereby only identified sample studies, which probably did not accurately represent a larger body of research. Furthermore, researchers categorized interventions without considering their factors such as study rigor.

Recently, institutions have been urging researchers to conduct research with a more diverse population for validity. This paper has a positive outlook on the future of ASD interventions as they repetitively mention that the percentage of studies reporting participant race and ethnicity has increased over time. In the future, researchers should strive to include a more ethnically diverse population in their research in order to improve and expand ASD intervention. Federal research funds should be allocated to funding research with families from low socioeconomic status and ethnically diverse backgrounds. Collectively, we must work towards combating the overrepresentation of white youth and the significant underrepresentation of black and Latino youth for intervention research.

Harris, B., Barton, E. E., & Mcclain, M. B. (2020). Inclusion of racially and ethnically diverse populations in ASD intervention research. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 73, 101551. doi: 10.1016/j.rasd.2020.101551


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