#FeatureFriday: World Congress of the International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Submitted By: Alicia Groom

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This past August, I was lucky enough to get to travel to Scotland to present an oral presentation at the World Congress of the International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IASSIDD). This conference was held in the historic city Glasgow at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC). As many as 1,254 abstracts were submitted for this conference. This trip was particularly meaningful to me as my mother is from Scotland, and I got to stay with family and experience the culture.

My passion for my undergraduate research in Psychology and Disabilities led me to pursue a Masters in Interdisciplinary Health at Laurentian. My Major Paper focuses on the attitudes of medical students towards patients with developmental disabilities, and how this is influenced by their preceptors. The attitudes held by medical professionals are an important determining factor in the ability of patients with disabilities to access health care services. Meanwhile, physicians often report that they did not receive sufficient training on this topic during their medical education.

My supervisor, Dr. Kelly Harding, and I collaborated on an abstract submission that looked at the attitudes, knowledge, and feelings of competence of healthcare providers towards patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), and how these factors impact the access and quality of care for the individuals. This project was titled: “In terms of providing medical care, I think I have a lot to learn…”: Healthcare Students’ and Providers Knowledge and Attitudes Regarding Patients with Developmental Disabilities in Northern Ontario, Canada. 

Participants reported that their education did not offer specific learning experiences surrounding disabilities. Due to this lack of experience, healthcare participants reported feelings of low self-efficacy and comfort when working with patients with Autism and FASD. Providing improved training opportunities for healthcare providers during their education will create more competent and confident providers. This, in turn, can lead to patients having greater access to health services and improved experiences.

While my presentation highlighted the need for more educational opportunities for healthcare providers surrounding Autism and FASD, the presenter who followed me discussed an online course she had designed specifically for this reason. It was so encouraging to see that the research we conduct is also recognized and relevant in other countries and that there were steps in the right direction towards solving this problem. I was able to meet and talk with this presenter after our session had ended, and I went home with an important new resource that we could recommend to healthcare providers in our community. This conference was hugely beneficial to my education and research, and I am incredible grateful to the Canada FASD Research Network for helping to support my journey there.

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Every year, the CanFASD Travel Awards provide a number of graduate students, faculty members, and post-doctoral fellows with the opportunity to connect with FASD researchers throughout Canada and around the world. Click here to learn more and to see if you qualify.

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