Autism Diagnosed Late in Minority Children

Experts are trying to figure out what explains the gap and how to close it.

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When it comes to kids with autism, early diagnosis is a big deal -- so experts are making it a priority to determine why minority children with the condition tend to be diagnosed as much as a year and a half later than white children. Closing the gap would mean getting more successful treatment for children of color.

Issues at play seem to include cultural differences in the ways parents view their children's developmental milestones and the ways in which they interact with the medical community. But there is also a troubling study showing that even when they did see specialists, black children with autism were more likely than whites to get the wrong diagnosis during their first visit.

From the Associated Press: 

"The biggest thing I want parents to know is we can do something about it to help your child," says Dr. Rebecca Landa, autism director at Baltimore's Kennedy Krieger Institute, who is exploring the barriers that different populations face in getting that help.

Her preliminary research suggests even when diagnosed in toddlerhood, minority youngsters have more severe developmental delays than their white counterparts. She says cultural differences in how parents view developmental milestones, and how they interact with doctors, may play a role.

Consider: Tots tend to point before they talk, but pointing is rude in some cultures and may not be missed by a new parent, Landa says. Or maybe mom's worried that her son isn't talking yet but the family matriarch, her grandmother, says don't worry – Cousin Harry spoke late, too, and he's fine. Or maybe the pediatrician dismissed the parents' concern, and they were taught not to question doctors.

... And troubling studies show that white kids may be diagnosed with autism as much as a year and a half earlier than black and other minority children, says University of Pennsylvania autism expert David Mandell, who led much of that work. Socioeconomics can play a role, if minority families have less access to health care or less education. 

Read more at the Associated Press.

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