University of Southern California
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Redesigning Lives Globally
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Autism in Urban Context

This two-year multi-method ethnographic project led by Olga Solomon examined health and service disparities in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) diagnosis of African American children living in Los Angeles. The research team followed 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, in order to document the families’ trajectories to an ASD diagnosis. The study was conducted at two clinical sites: USC University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (USC UCEDD at CHLA) and the San Gabriel/Pomona Regional center.

The researchers examined heterogeneity in ASD in relation to three previously unexamined domains: 1) barriers to and opportunities for African American children receiving timely and accurate diagnosis and appropriate services; 2) patterns of communication among African American caregivers and practitioners during clinical encounters that are vital for developing partnership and that are vulnerable to misunderstanding; and 3) 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.