An Inclusive Approach to Autism

Picture collage of The Black Empowerment in Autism Network
Brian Boyd, the William C. Friday Distinguished Professor in the UNC School of Education and interim director of the UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, hosted the first in-person meeting of the Black Empowerment in Autism Network. The network aims to provide opportunities for Black autism researchers and experts to connect, share their experiences and knowledge, and discuss ways to improve understanding and support for Black autistic individuals.

“We want to represent the broad range of research that we see in autism and mentor the next generation of researchers,” said Boyd, whose research of more than 20 years has led to effective classroom and home-based interventions for very young autistic children. “We want the group to represent a continuum of autism research with the goal of thinking about different audiences and ways to convey who we are, what we do, and what we want to accomplish.”

This group of Black scholars was developed to make autism research more inclusive and examine the ways autism impacts Black children and their families.

During the meeting, more than 20 researchers, educators, medical professionals, psychologists, speech pathologists and social workers discussed strategies to bridge the gaps in autism research and ways to enhance communication tactics between practitioners and clients, which could result in more equitable and effective outcomes for Black autistic populations. The group did this through discussions and writing exercises, and the meeting concluded with reflections on the proceedings and next steps for the Black Empowerment in Autism Network.

“The meeting was academically and culturally fulfilling,” Boyd said. “The day allowed us to make space to have authentic and much needed conversations about crafting a research agenda that centers the Black experience in autism. The group reflected on the current state of research and where the field needs to go, but we also took time to celebrate being able to be together.”

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