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Missing from the Narrative: A Seven-Decade Scoping Review of the Inclusion of Black Autistic Women and Girls in Autism Research

Abstract

The intersectional experiences of Black autistic women and girls (BAWG) are missing from medical and educational research on autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Understanding the intersectional experiences of BAWG is important due to the rising prevalence of autism in Black children and girls (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2020) and the concurrent lack of availability of culturally relevant autism-related interventions (Maenner et al., 2020; West et al., 2016). Intersectionality is the study of the overlapping discrimination produced by systems of oppression (Collins, 2019; Crenshaw, 1989, 1991) and allows the researcher to simultaneously address race and disability in special education (Artiles, 2013). In this scoping review, the authors used the PRISMA-ScR checklist (Tricco et al., 2018) and Arskey and O’Malley’s (2005) framework to investigate the degree to which autism-related research (ARR) has included the intersectional experiences of BAWG. Utilizing narrative synthesis, strengths and gaps across the current body of literature are identified in order to set new directions for intersectional ARR. Overall, the authors found that across a 77-year period, three studies foregrounded BAWG and none addressed intersectionality as measured through criteria advanced by García and Ortiz (2013). These results reveal the scholarly neglect BAWG face in ARR, discourse, policy, and practice. A future agenda including research, practice, and policy priorities is identified and discussed.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The authors are utilizing the preference of many autistic individuals to not use person-first language, but to use identity-first language as described by a Chinese, East Asian Autistic person (Brown, 2011a, 2011b) and a Black autistic woman (K. Smith, personal communication, March 20, 2020).

  2. 2.

    Within the African diaspora, self-identification as Black, African American, Afro-Latinx, and other identity markers are often a personal matter (Cross, 1991). For the purposes of this review, we use Black as an inclusive term to represent all members of the African diaspora.

  3. 3.

    “Dis/ability” written with the forward slash is employed by Annamma in order to “analyze the entire context in which a person functions” (Annamma et al., 2016, p. 1) and to acknowledge that “dis/ability is not a thing to find and fix, but a process” (Annamma, 2017, p. 7). Moreover, Annamma (2017) states that disability without the forward slash centers ability as the normative experience (dis = not, ability = able).

  4. 4.

    Nandi is a pseudonym we are using to hold space in acknowledgement for this participant’s contribution to this emerging research area. She is unnamed in the original publication.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Dr. Nicole M. Joseph (Vanderbilt University) for her contribution in the critical reading of this manuscript.

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This article is being published on an expedited basis, as part of a series of emergency publications designed to help practitioners of applied behavior analysis take immediate action to address police brutality and systemic racism. The journal would like to especially thank Melody Sylvain for their insightful and expeditious review of this manuscript. The views and strategies suggested by the articles in this series do not represent the positions of the Association for Behavior Analysis, International or Springer Nature.

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Lovelace, T.S., Comis, M.P., Tabb, J.M. et al. Missing from the Narrative: A Seven-Decade Scoping Review of the Inclusion of Black Autistic Women and Girls in Autism Research. Behav Analysis Practice (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40617-021-00654-9

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Keywords

  • Autism
  • Intersectionality
  • Scoping review
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Black
  • Girl
  • Woman