AUTISM written in beads above a chalkboard

News in Brief: With New Grant, EHD Faculty Will Expand Autism Work in Kenya

Researchers will build upon their community-based research partnerships to deepen their understanding of the educational experiences of children with autism.

Audrey Breen

Contributed photo: AUTISM spelled out in beads above a chalkboard in a classroom in Kenya. 

With new funding from the Spencer Foundation, autism researcher Mandy Rispoli will be expanding work she has already begun to better understand the educational landscape for children with autism in Kenya. 

Research on autism is expanding. However much of it has excluded low- and middle-income countries, like Kenya, even as autism rates around the world have reached one in 100 children. Rispoli, Quantitative Foundation Bicentennial Professor at the UVA School of Education and Human Development, alongside Assistant Professor Jim Soland, will use the $473,000 grant to build upon their community-based research partnerships already in place in western Kenya.

Mandy Rispoli
Professor Mandy Rispoli

For three years, the team will learn about the educational experiences of and beliefs about children with autism and other neurodevelopmental disabilities. Their focus is to learn directly from families, school personnel and community leaders.

“By learning from families, teachers, and individuals with autism, this project has the potential to improve the quality-of-life for children autism, their families, and their teachers in Kenya,” Rispoli said. “We are particularly interested in learning about Kenyan families’ experiences raising a child with a disability, how autistic children access education and special education services, and how schools teach and care for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities.”

Rispoli and Soland will work in partnership with colleagues from the Indiana University School of Medicine, North Carolina State University, and Moi University in Eldoret, Kenya.


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Audrey Breen