OHSU leads research on health disparities in autism care, other early childhood communication disorders

More than $1.5 million in grants support multi-state investigation of key factors in access to care, including structural racism, discrimination

Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University are leading two studies to address health disparities and improve outcomes for children with early childhood communication disorders by increasing equitable access to care.

Communication disorders — including primary speech and language disorders, autism spectrum disorder and hearing impairment — are the most common disabilities in early childhood, affecting 1 in 5 children before age 6. Early identification and treatment of these disorders improves social, emotional, behavioral and academic outcomes, and reduces educational, criminal justice and health care costs. However, many children with communication disorders are not diagnosed or treated until long after their first symptoms arise.

Children of color, in particular, face significant disparities in timely and sufficient access to early care for communication disorders. OHSU’s research, supported by $1.5 million in NIH funding, aims to understand how macro-level factors — such as structural racism and discrimination or limited English proficiency — can limit opportunities and resources for marginalized populations.

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Updated: December 21, 2022 — 8:56 am