UVA professor working to remove cultural barriers that may impact autism services
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A University of Virginia professor is working to break down cultural barriers that impact autism services for non-English-speaking families.
Michaela Dubay is a speech language pathologist at UVA. She says one of the biggest things to understand when assisting a non-English-speaking family is the difference between translations and cultural adaptations.
“Parenting strategies and parenting interaction styles, they’re quite different across cultures, and so we don’t know if those same strategies that are effective in one cultural population are actually effective in another cultural population,” Dubay said.
Dubay recently began researching how cultural barriers impact autism services in the U.S. and globally. She says she noticed that even though she spoke Spanish, she could tell parents weren’t always understanding.
“I would give them ideas of something that they could do at home that was targeting a specific skill. They would come back the next week and I would ask them how it went, and they’d start talking about a different skill, or it just there seems to be something that was kind of not connecting,” Dubay said.
Dubay began to wonder how this may affect children with early signs of autism. She says better understanding of how different cultures interpret language will make it easier to provide proper service to families.
One of the biggest issues is how autism screenings are translated for non-English speakers, making it difficult to know if a child may actually have autism.
“Usually, when people translate them, they do what’s called a forward-back translation. So they have one person translated into the new language, they have a different person translate it back into the first language,” Dubay said “The problem with that is that you usually get a pretty direct translation, and you don’t think about culture at all. And so that whole side of things is completely missed.”
There isn’t a definitive answer yet as to how to combat this issue.
“There’s a lot of different methodologies that you can use, like, you can have a team of translators instead of just one you make sure that they’re native speakers. You make sure that they sort of represent the culture. You can do focus groups and interviews with people who are in the target population to see how they actually understand the items,” Dubay said.
Dubay plans to continue her work to find out how to break down cultural barriers and is even part of a development program to provide autism services in Bolivia.
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