According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of autism continues to increase in the United States and, as of 2022, 1 in 44 children are diagnosed as autistic. However, there continues to be a discrepancy in autism diagnosis and treatment across racial groups. Regardless of socioeconomic status, Black, Latino/Hispanic, and Indigenous children are much less likely than white children to receive an autism diagnosis. If a person of color receives a diagnosis of autism, it is typically much later in life and they are provided inconsistent therapeutic support.
Research also shows that children of color are more likely to be misdiagnosed with a behavioral disorder such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder or Conduct Disorder, instead of accurately diagnosed with a form of neurodiversity such as autism, ADHD, and/or learning differences.
Additionally, children of color also receive disciplinary action including suspension from school at disproportionate rates compared to white children. This social inequity has a negative impact on social opportunities.
At Insights Colorado Assessment and Therapy, we are committed to doing our part to change this disparity. It is imperative that children of color receive proper diagnosis and treatment so that they can access appropriate supports and to divert the school-to-prison pipeline.
Research Findings and Relevant Statistics:
In the United States, White children are 19% more likely than Black children and 65% more likely than Hispanic children to be diagnosed with autism (Furfaro, 2017).
Black American Children:
- According to Mandell et al. (2006), White American children were 2.6 times more likely than Black American children to receive an autism diagnosis on their first specialty care visit. On average, it takes more visits to a specialty provider to receive an autism diagnosis.
- Black American children are 5.1 times more likely to be misdiagnosed with conduct disorder or adjustment disorder before being diagnosed with autism or ADHD (Mandell et al., 2007).
- Once diagnosed, Black autistic children are less likely to receive consistent medical and diagnostic support than White autistic children.
- It was found that Black children are typically diagnosed with autism 1.4 years later than White children, spent 8 more months in mental health treatment before diagnosis, and required 3 times the number of visits as White children before receiving a diagnosis of autism. (Mandell et al., 2002).
- Latino children are diagnosed with autism 2.5 years later than White non-Latino children. Latino children are often overlooked in receiving an autism diagnosis even though they meet criteria. (Zuckerman et al., 2014).
- According to Zuckerman et al. (2014), Latino children are also more likely to have more “severe” autistic traits at the time of diagnosis than White non-Latino children.
- Reasons why Hispanic children are diagnosed less often than White non-Hispanic children:
- Language barriers
- Cultural differences
- Lack of awareness in the Hispanic communities
- Indigenous people have the lowest rate of autism diagnosis among any racial group in the United States (Drexler, 2018).
- Indigenous children are 13% less likely to be identified as autistic compared to White children (Bennett et al., 2021).
Asian American Children:
- Asians comprised about 5% of children diagnosed with autism in the United States. However, little is known about the underrepresentation that is attributed to the difficulty in recruiting Asian families to volunteer for research studies due to open disclosure often required in such studies (Tuzon et al., 2017).
- Asian American children with disabilities are consistently underrepresented in research, underserved, and often receive lower quality support and rehabilitation than other racial groups within the United States (Foley, 2019).
Bennett, A., Ray, M., Zucker, E., & Chuo, J. (2021). Increasing Diagnostic Services for Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Native American Community: A Pilot Collaborative Telecare Model.
Drexler, Olivia. (2018). Colonization in Autism: Understanding the Role that Colonialism Plays in the Disparity in Native American Autism Rates Cultural Differences. 10.13140/RG.2.2.19773.36325.
Mandell, D. S., Listerrud, J., Levy, S. E., & Pinto-Martin, J. A. (2002). Race differences in the age at diagnosis among Medicaid-eligible child with autism. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 41(12), 1447–1454.
Mandell, D. S., Ittenbach, R. F., Levy, S. E., & Pinto-Martin, J. A. (2007). Disparities in diagnoses received prior to a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 37(9), 1795–1802. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-006-0314-8
Furfaro, H. (2017). Race, class contribute to disparities in autism diagnoses. Spectrum News. Retrieved at: https://www.spectrumnews.org/news/race-class-contribute-disparities-autism-diagnoses/
Zuckerman, K. E., Sinche, B., Cobian, M., Cervantes, M., Mejia, A., Becker, T., & Nicolaidis, C. (2014). Conceptualization of autism in the Latino community and its relationship with early diagnosis. Journal of developmental and behavioral pediatrics : JDBP, 35(8), 522–532. https://doi.org/10.1097/DBP.0000000000000091