Newsletter Article

Population Health Pilot Grant Funds Autism Screening Tool Research

Shana Attar
Headshot of Shana Attar

Shana Attar and her advisor Dr. Wendy Stone (Child Clinical) received an eight-month award from the UW Population Health Institute, Tier 1 Pilot Grant Program for their research titled "My Toddler's Social Communication: Examining the Cultural Sensitivity of a New Pictorial Screening Tool for Identifying Toddlers at Risk for Autism in Diverse Cultural, Ethnic, Racial and Linguistic Settings." Learn more about Shana below! 

Let's start with the basics. Where are you from and where did you complete undergrad/masters?

I’m from Connecticut and I completed my undergraduate at the University of Connecticut and my masters at Harvard University. 

How did you wind up at UW/why did you apply here?

After I received my masters, I worked in autism research for several years. I became very interested in autism detection and early intervention and applied to UW to work with my advisor, Dr. Wendy Stone, who is an expert in these areas. 

What is your research interest and how did you get into it? What inspires/motivates you?

Children with autism from diverse cultural, ethnic, racial, and linguistic backgrounds are diagnosed less frequently and at older ages than white children, delaying access to autism-specialized treatment. This identification and treatment delay is associated with a profound lag in cognitive, linguistic, and social development relative to children who receive timely diagnoses and autism-specialized treatment. I’m motivated to develop methods to improve autism screening so that children at-risk for autism, regardless of their background, may be directed to specialized services in an equitable manner. 

How did you learn about your funding opportunity? Tell us about the application/waiting process.

Dr. Stone recommended that I check out this grant because they offer funding for projects that are early in the development phase. The application was relatively simple–one of the hardest parts was using very concise language because the word limits were tiny. 

How did you feel when you learned that your application was accepted and that you will receive funding? 

I was really excited! 

What is the name of your project and the funding source?

Project: My Toddler’s Social Communication: Examining the Cultural Sensitivity of a New Pictorial Screening Tool for Identifying Toddlers at Risk for Autism in Diverse Cultural, Ethnic, Racial, and Linguistic Settings 

Funding: Population Health Initiative 

Do you have any advice/tips/suggestions for others who may apply to this opportunity? About graduate study in general?

This is a great grant opportunity, and I’d encourage anyone with a project focused on improving population health to apply. 

What do you like doing in your spare time?

I like to spend time with my family, bike, hike, cook, and read. 

What do you plan to do once you complete your PhD?  

I’d like to become a professor and continue to research methods for improving autism screening and intervention in community settings.  I also hope to teach and mentor undergraduate and graduate students. 


Our Department's graduate programs continue to be a top destination for prospective students. Gifts to our graduate fellowships and student support funds allow us to attract and retain a more diverse, well-rounded cohort of students. Support the training, research, and professional development of underrepresented graduate students in the Department with a gift to the Psychology Diversity Fund.