Pilot Study to Improve Access to Early Intervention for Autism in Africa
A significant global challenge is to develop scalable, feasible, early interventions for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) that can be implemented in diverse and low resource communities. There is growing excitement around innovative caregiver-mediated early intervention strategies, for example the Parent Early Start Denver Model (P-ESDM) co-developed by Dr. Geraldine Dawson, my primary advisor on this application. Caregiver-mediated interventions have been shown to improve parent-child interactions and child language comprehension, and reduce the severity of ASD. Importantly, engagement of caregivers promises new ways to address the capacity barrier globally. My planned research career trajectory is to become a leader in the development and implementation of caregiver-mediated interventions for ASD and other childhood neuropsychiatric disorders in diverse and low resource communities.
This work is closely aligned with two of the top Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health priorities: (1) to reduce the duration of untreated illness by developing culturally-sensitive early interventions and (2) to improve child access to evidence-based mental health care. In addition, this work aligns with an objective of the Federal Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee Strategic Plan: to support community-based studies that assess the effectiveness of interventions and services in broader community settings including scalable early intervention programs for implementation in undeserved, low-resource, and low-literacy populations.