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 Mark J. Sciutto, Ph.D.  


Areas of Interest

ADHD Knowledge, Misconceptions, and Help-Seeking Behavior

Stigma of Autism and Asperger's Syndrome

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Click here to see a list of publications and presentations



 

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is among the most commonly diagnosed psychological disorders in children and adolescents. Despite increased public awareness of ADHD and the availability of effective interventions, many children with legitimate needs are not identified and/or never receive adequate treatment services. Understanding the process through which families seek help may be an important step in ensuring that children with ADHD receive appropriate services. Models of help-seeking behavior for mental disorders depict four core stages: problem recognition, the decision to seek help, service selection, and service utilization (see Figure 1)

Help-Seeking Process

Figure 1. Help-Seeking Model (Andersen, 1995; Eiraldi, Mazzuca, Clarke, & Power, 2006).

These four help-seeking stages are interrelated and families generally transition through them in a linear fashion. However, this process can be interrupted at any stage, which results in many children not receiving proper care (Power, Eiraldi, Clarke, Mazzuca, & Krain, 2005).  Knowledge of ADHD is one of the factors hypothesized to impact the transition through each help-seeking stage (Cauce et al., 2002; Eiraldi et al., 2006). For example, incorrectly believing that sugar elimination diets are effective may impede the decision to seek professional help (Stage 2) and the selection of more established treatments (Stage 3).

Over the past 14 years, one area of my research has focused on the measurement of ADHD knowledge and misconceptions. Colleagues and I developed a measure of ADHD knowledge called the Knowledge of Attention Deficit Disorders Scale (KADDS; Sciutto, Terjesen, & Bender Frank, 2000). The KADDS has been used in dozens of research studies in nearly 20 countries. At the time we developed the KADDS, measures of ADHD knowledge typically used dichotomous scoring (true/false or correct/incorrect), which is highly susceptible to guessing and therefore measurement error.  Unlike these measures, the KADDS uses a format that distinguishes between what respondents “do not know” (i.e., lack of information) and what they believe incorrectly (i.e., misconceptions). We believe that this distinction is important conceptually and practically.

Our research is currently focused on measuring the strength of misconceptions and the impact of these misconceptions on the help-seeking process. We are also examining cross-cultural differences in teachers' ADHD knoweldge and training.

 

Stigma of Autism and Asperger's Syndrome

Stigma is a multidimensional construct that involves elements of stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination toward a person because of his or her membership in a particular “out-group” (Hinshaw, 2007). Stigma toward mental illness in its various forms continues to be prevalent despite increases in public awareness and knowledge (Hinshaw, 2007; Pescosolido et al., 2010). Much of the research on mental illness stigma has focused on schizophrenia and mood disorders. However, there is also considerable evidence of stigma attached to developmental disabilities such as autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) (Hinshaw, 2007; Ling, Mak, & Cheng, 2010).

Below are some of the ways in which we have examined stigma in ASDs:

  • Interpersonal Contact and Stigma. Prior research has documented that increased interpersonal contact with members of an out-group leads to improved attitudes (i.e., less stigma). However, measurement of interpersonal contact often fails to capture qualitative differences in the nature of the contact (e.g., positive vs. negative). We are examining several methods of measuring qualitative differences in interpersonal contact as predictors of stigma.

 

  • Labeling and Stigma. The upcoming revision of the resource used by clinicians to diagnose psychological disorders (DSM-5; see www.dsm5.org) is likely to eliminate the distinction between Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism. Instead, there will be a single “umbrella” category called Autism Spectrum Disorder.  While this change appears justified on empirical grounds, it may have unintended consequences related to stigma. We are interested in whether perceptions of a child’s behavior (i.e., stigma) differed as a consequence of the label used (Asperger’s Syndrome vs. Autism).

 

  • School Experiences of Individuals with Asperger's Syndrome. Awareness of Asperger's Syndrome has increased dramatically over the past decade. Despite this increase in awareness, there is still a need for a deeper understanding of the ways in which the schools are meeting or not meeting the needs of children and adolescents with Asperger's Syndrome. Many of the characteristics of “typical” classrooms are mismatched with the relative strengths and weaknesses of children with Asperger’s Syndrome (Kunce, 2003). Children with Asperger’s are often placed in regular education classrooms with teachers who have little or no training related to the disorder. We are interested in learning more about the types of challenges and successes that children and adolescents with Asperger's Syndrome have experienced in the schools. 

 

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

I am also interested in issues related to the teaching of psychology.  Specifically, I am interested in the interaction between cognitive and affective variables in education, particularly in quantitative/methodology courses.  Affective variables such as anxiety and interest are particularly important in demanding classes such as statistics and research methods.   Unfortunately, students often enter these classes with negative expectations, fears, and disinterest. If their negative expectations and fears are not alleviated early, they approach the class with an emphasis on “survival” rather than learning. If this happens, the students then are less likely to utilize and value research in the future, a consequence that is clearly counterproductive to psychology as a science.  Accordingly, my research has focused on the affective characteristics that students bring to these classes and ways that instructors can promote positive changes in these areas.   I have focused on two categories of factors that may influence these outcomes: specific (i.e., classroom techniques or strategies) and non-specific (interpersonal or relationship oriented factors). 

 


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