Connie Kasari: Friendship and Children with Autism

Researcher discusses challenges for children in forming typical friendships, California's shortfall in services to special education during pandemic lockdown.

Professor Connie Kasari of Human Development and Psychology Division at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, was featured in an article on “How People with Autism Forge Friendships” in Scientific American. 

Kasari, who is also a professor of Psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, discussed the myth that children with spectrum disorders are friendless. However, she pointed out that the quality of friendships for children with autism is not typical in terms of companionship and support.

Professor Kasari suggested that getting neurotypical children to serve as “ambassadors” in playground settings helped to encourage engagement among both their typical peers and their peers on the autism spectrum.

“That’s the beginning of friendship. It’s saying, ‘We have to get you engaged and exposed to kids having fun for you to even develop a friendship,’” Kasari said in the article. 

Professor Kasari founded The Kasari Lab in 1997, as part of the Center for Autism Research and Treatment and the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies in the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. She leads the Autism Intervention Research Network for Behavioral Health (AIR-B), a consortium of five institutions with UCLA serving as the coordinating site. At each of the sites, researchers partner with community health agencies and school districts to decrease disparities in access to effective interventions for low resourced, and minority children with autism. In Los Angeles, AIR-B works with LAUSD students on the autism spectrum, and community agencies, including Healthy African American Families, and Fiesta Educativa, a parent-based organization for Spanish-speaking families.

Kasari was also interviewed recently by on the shortcomings of California’s special education system amid the shutdown of schools and services in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 

To read, “How People with Autism Forge Friendships” in Scientific American. (originally published in Spectrum), visit this link.