Diversity Fellow Project, Tina Mounlavongsy

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Autism Screening Tools: Not Accurate for Minority or Low-Income Children

Autism Screening Tools: Not Accurate for Minority or Low-Income Children [download]

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Project Narrative

1. Please describe your activities during your fellowship experience. Describe your final capstone project(s).
My Fellowship experience entailed a wide variety of activities from being in the classroom to observing in clinic, and even attending the Disability Policy Seminar. I learned many skills and gained insight and knowledge about the foundation of intellectual developmental disabilities, early assessment and intervention, and the family and individual perspective, among other topics. I also want to highlight the enhancement of my Fellowship experience that was impacted by having a self-advocate and parent fellow in my cohort as well. Attending the Disability Policy Seminar in Washington DC was extremely inspiring and eye-opening for me as well! I met extraordinary people and was able to see firsthand how vital policy is for the Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities (/IDD) population.

My capstone project allowed me an opportunity to connect with a variety of community partners that contribute to the autism population in different ways. I worked with Autism Society of Colorado, THRIVE, Family Voices, and Parent to Parent of Colorado to create a policy brief that highlighted the significance of proper and accurate implementation of the screening tools (i.e SCQ) for Autism Spectrum Disorders. The hopes for this project was to raise awareness about the issue and create a tool that community partners can utilize to advocate for keeping trained professionals in schools to administer screening tools.

2. Who did your project inform, help, influence or impact? (UCEDD, individual, community, state) How?
My project informed the general community partners within the Aurora/Denver, whom I met with and corresponded with via ZOOM.

3. Why did you choose to work on that project(s)?
Through my Fellowship experience from a curriculum perspective, I learned how vital early screening and diagnosis can alter the life path for a family and individual. Because of this importance, I took a big interest in how our community and schools were assessing and screening children at a young age. Conveniently during the time I was deciding what I wanted to focus my capstone project on, one of the faculty at JFK Partners brought to my attention a paper he just published that highlighted the error found in SCQ screening and the amount of false positives, meaning being screened positive to be at-risk for having ASD, that were being accounted for in minority populations. For these reasons, I made the choice to work on this specific project.

4. What did you gain from being a Diversity Fellow?
Being from a minority population, being a Diversity Fellow helped further enhance my experience in the LEND fellowship. There were different requirements that I was asked to fulfill as a Diversity Fellow that differed from my colleagues who were not. However, I am thankful for the learning opportunities and hands on experience that I was exposed to because of it I got to take the skills and education that I received in the classroom and apply it to my active learning and experience in clinic visits and observations and also my capstone project using a different lens and perspective. I was also able to connect with other LEND fellows that I would not have connected with if I was not a Diversity Fellow.

5. How will this experience impact your education or career decisions?
This experience really confirmed my love and passion for working with the I/DD population, individuals and their families. It also helped solidify my concerns I had prior to the Fellowship experience in regards to whether or not I was on the right path pursuing my MPH in Maternal Child Health and where I wanted to take my career. As a LEND Fellow graduate, I am continuing my involvement with JFK Partners and am working with the Study to Explore Early Development Research Study, while looking for more opportunities to grow as a young professional and learn more as I continue my education in my MPH.

6. What are your future goals? Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
I graduate from my MPH program in December 2018. My immediate future goal is to be employed of course, but I hope to be employed in a position that allows me to impact and work with the I/DD population. I have grown to care for research tremendously, but also value dedicating my time to working with families directly. I also want to explore opportunities to work with disability policy and make an impact with the IDD population in that way as well. Five years from now I hope to be established in my initial career placement if not on my second position, and hope to continue to grow and gain more knowledge and skills to further my career path working to help improve and benefit the lives affected by IDD.

7. What recommendations do you have for other Fellows?
It is a huge honor and privilege to be a Diversity Fellow. Take advantage of the unique opportunity that the program has to offer. Attend all workshops and seminars that you can. Utilize the faculty, your mentor, and support staff that are there for you. They are your biggest supporters and play a huge part in your overall experience. And never be afraid to ask to do more and be more involved. The year goes by really fast!

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