Burkhart Center Extends Work to Agencies in South America
The Burkhart Center is excited about current and future opportunities to collaborate with developing countries in South America in research about autism. One such opportunity is in Lima, Peru. Dr. Liliana Mayo founded the Ann Sullivan Center de Peru in 1984. The Ann Sullivan Center is a non-profit organization that works with individuals with developmental disabilities and it was the first organization in Peru to offer educational and vocational support services to people with autism, developmental disorders, and severe behavior problems.
Because of its internationally renowned success, additional Ann Sullivan Centers have opened in several countries in South America, such as Brazil, where Layla Abby became interested in working with autism.
Layla Abby, who is from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and a new doctoral student in the Special Education program working for the Burkhart Center for Autism at Texas Tech, is doing a research project with the Ann Sullivan Center de Peru, along with Dr. Dave Richman, holder of the Jere Lynn Chair in Autism and Director of the Burkhart Canter for Autism Education and Research, and colleagues from the University of Kansas, Drs. Stephen Schroeder and Judith M. Leblanc. Many developing countries lack the resources required to provide educational, vocational, and socialization support to people with developmental disorders; therefore, the research team is seeking to develop an international research training program with South American countries to assist with capacity building and enhancing research infrastructure.
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development is currently funding a joint research project between the University of Kansas, Texas Tech University, and the Ann Sullivan Center de Peru through the Fogarty International Research Collaboration grant program. The current study in Lima, Peru, is attempting to identify risk and protective factors for the development of self-injurious, aggressive, and destructive behaviors exhibited by infants with severe developmental delays and various genetic disorders.
The Autism Research Team is developing a new grant proposal to the Fogarty International Research Collaboration program to fund joint research projects between several Ann Sullivan Centers in South America and Texas Tech University. In addition to scientists from the United States traveling to South America to conduct training on methods of scientific inquiry, the Team also hopes to offer training on research methodology related to autism through the Burkhart Center and Texas Tech.
Autism knows no racial, ethnic, or cultural boundaries. Little did the founders of the Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research understand how their gift to offer help and support for people affected by autism in West Texas would have the possibility of impacting the world.
(Contributed by Layla Abby)