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Minorities Show More Severe Signs Of Autism


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Children with autism who come from minority backgrounds are more delayed than their Caucasian peers with the disorder, researchers say, likely because their symptoms go unnoticed longer.

The differences between white children and their non-white peers are significant, spanning everything from language to communication and gross motor skills, according to a new study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore assessed 84 toddlers with autism from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.

“We found the toddlers in the minority group were significantly further behind than the non-minority group in development of language and motor skills and showed more severe autism symptoms in their communication abilities,” said Rebecca Landa, director of the institute’s Center for Autism and Related Disorders who worked on the study.

The differences between ethnic groups persisted even when the researchers controlled for socioeconomic differences, they said.

Statistically speaking, autism is estimated to occur in 1 in 110 American children, but is not believed to be more or less common among members of any particular racial or ethnic group. However, previous research has indicated that white children tend to be diagnosed earlier than those who are African American, Hispanic or Asian, the researchers behind the current study said.

“It’s really troubling when we look at these data alongside diagnosis statistics because they suggest that children in need of early detection and intervention are not getting it,” Landa said.

While it’s unclear exactly why children from minority backgrounds are diagnosed with autism later, the researchers said it could be related to cultural differences in how people perceive childhood development. The ethnic disparity could also be due to stigma about disability in some communities.

What’s more, the researchers said they could not rule out the possibility that there may be biological differences in the manifestation of autism among different ethnic groups contributing to the more pronounced delays observed in children from minority backgrounds.

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Comments (6 Responses)

  1. brie says:

    I hate that you are making this a race thing now , i noticed my son wasnt taking , not anyone else , a mom knows when there child isnt acting right it had nothing to do with money or race , he was almost a year in a half old , when your kid doesnt hug or kiss you eat or talk , all i had to do was call the state they knew right way and got him help , he was in school by 3 , and this was 18 years ago , they knew it was autism , it didnt cost me anything to get him help .

  2. Joyce says:

    Connecting autism to race is very dangerous business. It has the potential of becoming another negative stereotype & therefore furthering racism.

  3. brie says:

    i forgot , what bothered me was the doctor didnt notice , i mean here you are getting all the shots , they did pic up on the low muscle tone and it would help if they had info before people have babies what to look for what mile stones they should be at what age , i dont think any new mom know that unless someone tells you !!!

  4. Sonja L says:

    What isn’t mentioned is socio/economic levels of the minorities in this study. I don’t think it’s so much “race thing” as it is a “poverty” thing. White people with money usually get earlier diagnosis using outside, private-pay specialists as opposed to waiting for a school district to assess and identify. The biological difference statement is concerning, especially if economic background was not included in the study.

    It might be cultural differences, and it also might be lack of parent training and information for minorities (especially if English-as-a-second-language households. Families need training and information to make informed decisions. It isn’t always available for low-income, ESL families.

  5. Camille says:

    Autism in the African Community is one of the slowest evolving revelations I’ve seen. Race and culture plays a huge role in many AA Children being undiagnosed and misdiagnosed. It’s not racist to state the facts and the facts are African American Children are likely to go without a proper diagnosis. There is an ethnic disparity, because autism isn’t external. So, we make excuses “boys are slower and apply more discipline” are very common responses. It’s hard to reach out when you’re being shut down. Yes the information is out there, but much of it isn’t community specific. I also believe autism advocates have missed the mark on their initiatives to the African American Community. What good is employing African American spokes people, if you aren’t going to lend them to their communities?

    Sometimes in order to be effective you have to take a more specific approach. With that said I wish this article would have gone beyond it’s limited sources and interviewed AA Autism Advocates.

  6. Jon K. Evans says:

    I didn’t even suspect my case until I was 36, and even then, only as a result of watching a WLS-TV News Report on Hyperlexia. I couldn’t afford solid confirmation until I was 47, when I was discovered not only to have Aspergers, but the Hyperlexia I suspected 11 years earlier! Yes, you told the Gospel’s Truth when you or the article stated that Minorities are more prone towards a later diagnosis. I believe that being Black muddies up the issue tremendously.

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