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Three Question Check-In with Sandy Magaña, Steve Hicks School of Social Work, University of Texas at Austin

1. Your research from your bio focuses on racial and ethnic disparities among children with autism and developmental disabilities. Given that autism and disabilities are highly topical and frequently discussed, your research is addressing ways to correct the disparities. Can you elaborate a little on this and some current conclusions?

Health disparities can and should be addressed at different levels such as individual/family level, the provider level and the systemic macro levels. I have developed an intervention that is aimed at empowering Latino parents (individual/family level) to know their rights and implement evidence-based strategies with their children, called Parents Taking Action. This intervention is tailored for Latino and low-resource families and has been tested with a randomized trial. We are currently adapting the intervention to other underserved groups such as African American parents and Chinese American parents. The intervention uses peer parent leaders who deliver a curriculum aimed at empowering families. I am currently working at the provider level to develop ways that clinics and agencies can implement the intervention.

2. You’re the primary researcher on the Family Support Research and Training Center staff. Can you connect your research to the mission and goals of the Center?

I am the lead PI for the FSRTC which is a center focused on research on families who support persons with disabilities. The center promotes research of caregivers and family members across disabilities, across the life course and across race/ethnicity. My research has always been on families of persons with different disabilities including intellectual disabilities, autism, and serious mental illness, with an emphasis on families from diverse cultural backgrounds. Therefore, I proposed the center when I was at UIC to examine family support across these different experiences.

3. You’re developing a program that trains social work students how to work with people with developmental disabilities. Can you tell us a little more about that?

I created a program called Building Excellence in Autism Disability Scholars (BEADS) that prepares social work students to work effectively and competently with individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities across the lifespan. Few social work programs provide training for working with people with disabilities, yet once out in the field, social workers end up in positions working with them. We received donations from generous donors to offer stipends to students who do their field placements in disability related agencies, and complete a required curriculum.

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