Autism among Hispanics and Other Minorities Increases.... But What Does That Mean?

Studies done as early as 2007 have been detecting signs in children as early as one year old old that can accurately diagnose autism. One study done by the Kennedy Krieger Institue "Children With Autism Can Be Accurately Diagnosed at Close to One Year of Age", July 2, 2007, evaluated social and communication development in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) from 14 to 36 months of age, and revealed that approximately half of all children with autism can be diagnosed around the first birthday.


If this is true, why do the parents of children of Hispanic and other minority cultures as opposed to children of caucasian families take so long to notice the early yet subtle signs, get a diagnosis and finally begin an appropriate treatment. A study done by The Texas Educational Agency, and The Health Resources Administration, 2010, "Expalining Low Rates of Autism Among Hispanics Schoolchildren in Texas" found a much lower rates of autism among the Hispanic community and attributed social economic differences as a possible factor. For example, parents not having health insurance or other medical resources for their children, making them less likely to experience specialty care. Not having the knowledge of what are the early signs of autism was another possible factor therefor resulting in a late diagnosis among minority families.


In an article found in Al Jazeera America 2013 by Lisa De Bode, "latino-children with autism lose out" it was suggested that one factor is the "Language Barrier"s between the specialist and the Spanish speaking families that prevents the specialist from asking the parent about the very subtle symptoms of autism or the parent being able to explain their childs delays. However, "Social Stigma", due to the lack of knowledge about autism in the community, is another factor that contributes to children not getting an early diagnosis. Having to cross those social stigma barriers makes it very difficult for the parents to reach out and, get the help their child needs. Minorities have as well lower "Health Illiteracy", which is a measure that assesses the degree to which individuals can understand basic health information.


Another study done by Kennedy Krieger in 2012, "Increase Awareness Among Clinicians and Parents Could Lead to EArlier Diagnosis and Intervention for Minority Children with ASD", found that minority toddles with autism are more delayed and affected than their

Caucasian peers. A really troubling fact when looking at the data along side the diagnosis statistics because it suggest children are in need of early detection and treatment are not getting it.


However, a study done in 2013 taken from early-interventoin programs in Massachusetts suggest that autism rates among latinos have increased, suggesting that more early diagnosis are being done in the community. From these studies we can conclude that autism awareness and health literacy needs to be continued and expanded among all the minority cultures. “As well as helping clinicians taking the steps to develop more culturally-sensitive screenings and assessments practices, with a special focus on educating the parents, empowering them, and helping them identify early warnings signs, and taking the necessary steps for appropriate evidence based treatments for their child.


By Jury Rosario, LMSW

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