Dr. Marija Čolić, an instructor in the College of Education Department of Special Education (SPED), was awarded the 2021 Diversity in Research award from the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR). Formed in 2001, INSAR is an international professional and scientific organization devoted to advancing knowledge about autism.
“As an immigrant from Serbia, I am grateful for an opportunity to share experiences of Serbian parents of individuals with autism with the international autism community,” Čolić said. “At the same time, I am inspired to conduct more research involving families from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. This award represents increasing awareness of the research community, and I hope that this trend will continue as a path in supporting these underrepresented individuals.”
The research Čolić presented for the award is a part of her doctoral dissertation in which she explores stigma, quality of life, empowerment, and self-esteem among Serbian parents of individuals with autism and physical disabilities.
“Having a child with a disability is still a shame in most of the places in Serbia, and I conducted research wishing to better understand families’ experiences,” Čolić explained. “My results show that parents of individuals with autism experienced, perceived, and internalized stigma more compared to parents of individuals with physical disabilities, while the levels of empowerment and self-esteem were similar across both groups of parents.”
Traditionally given to individuals working in autism research in health-related institutions, universities, public agencies, or other stakeholder-related activities, the award was given to Čolić after a close review of her research abstract, professional activities related to autism, and a written explanation of the importance of her research to the autism community. She was recognized at the virtual INSAR Annual Meeting earlier this month.
SPED Chair Mary Jo Noonan said, “In addition to her research, Dr. Colic has been a support and advocate for families of children with disabilities in Serbia. She has provided numerous training webinars at no expense to families to assist them in dealing with challenging behaviors.”