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Building community support for young children with autism

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"Early intervention is key," says Sheri Stronach, an assistant professor in the Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences at the University of Minnesota, who researches early identification of autism spectrum disorder in children. Early detection can have a positive impact on intervention, and Stronach has shown that autism can be reliably diagnosed in children as young as 18 to 24 months. Her current research examines the impacts of autism interventions in six communities around Minnesota: four in the Twin Cites and two outside of the metro area. When conducting this kind of community impact research on autism, she notes, it is important to develop trusting relationships with community members. This can help researchers navigate cultural barriers and stigma among families and health care providers.