Deaf individuals with developmental disorders currently struggle to access appropriate diagnostic and evaluation services. The gold-standard diagnostic tool for autism is the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS-2); in ADOS assessments, the examiner presents a series of social and communication prompts, and evaluates the social quality of responses to these prompts. The ADOS-2 is not adapted for use in American Sign Language; as a result, Deaf individuals receive delayed or incorrect diagnoses.
The goal of this project is to adapt the ADOS-2 for people who use ASL, with procedures that are aligned with Deaf cultural values and practices. This requires that ADOS-2 prompts account for the visual modality of ASL, in which differences in ASL production can act as autism markers, and in which eye contact is critical for receiving linguistic information. This adaptation is not a simple process of interpreting the written sentences; it requires input from expert linguists, clinicians, and Deaf signers. We are in the process of developing and testing the adapted ADOS-2 for ASL. Our project team includes Marie Coppola, Inge-Marie Eigsti, Wyatte Hall, Jon Henner, Deb Mood, Robert Nutt, Aaron Shield, and Kristin Walker.