Autism Diagnosis Delayed for African American Children

23 comments
February 23, 2012 ‐ By

Approximately 1 in 110 children in the United States is autistic; and while the prevalence of the condition is virtually the same among blacks and whites, a new study found that black children typically aren’t diagnosed until a full year-and-a-half later than white children.

Researchers are dredging up the usual explanations for the delay: lack of access to quality and affordable health care. But according to Martell Teasley, an associate professor in the College of Social Work at Florida State University in Tallahassee, “social stigma attached to mental health issues within the black community” may also play a role because it leads to “less discussion about autism among African Americans or between African Americans and health care providers.” Lack of trust in the health care system may also cause parents to resist seeking treatment, even when signs of the disorder are evident.

Teasley has a point. A recent study found that black people are diagnosed with schizophrenia at much higher rates than whites, and there was much discussion about how much clinician’s bias had to do with such labeling as opposed to patients having a true mental condition. That same attitude is likely present in discussions around autism with black parents being cautious of doctor’s wanting to quickly stamp their child with the disorder, even if the condition is present. As Teasley points out:
“African-Americans are well versed in going to a doctor who might have biases or discriminatory practices, so they may not readily accept what a doctor says.”

 

Living in urban communities doesn’t help either, as mental health facilities in such areas have steadily been on the decline for the past 30 years. What’s most important is education encouraging African American parents to seek proper resources if their child shows signs of the spectrum disorder—and to do so as early as possible in order to have the greatest impact on their child’s health because as Teasley points out, “later intervention will result in a poorer developmental outcome that can have a lasting impact on the child’s and family’s quality of life.”

What do you think is the biggest reason for delayed diagnoses among African American children?

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  • Nia

    Vaccinations are the cause of the rising Autism rates. Please I beg you to do your own personal research on this matter and help save our children. Here are the ingredients that are in many vaccines:

    * aluminum hydroxide
    * aluminum phosphate* ammonium sulfate* amphotericin B* animal tissues: pig blood, horse blood, rabbit brain,* dog kidney, monkey kidney,* chick embryo, chicken egg, duck egg* calf (bovine) serum* betapropiolactone* fetal bovine serum* formaldehyde

    *Thimerosol

    Plus the substitute for mercury which is human fetal tissue that was
    implanted in the mid 90′s has a direct correlation to the drastic rise
    in autism.

  • Nia

    Vaccinations are the cause of the rising Autism rates. Please I beg you to do your own personal research on this matter and help save our children. Here are the ingredients that are in many vaccines:

    * aluminum hydroxide
    * aluminum phosphate* ammonium sulfate* amphotericin B* animal tissues: pig blood, horse blood, rabbit brain,* dog kidney, monkey kidney,* chick embryo, chicken egg, duck egg* calf (bovine) serum* betapropiolactone* fetal bovine serum* formaldehyde

    *Thimerosol

    Plus the substitute for mercury which is human fetal tissue that was
    implanted in the mid 90′s has a direct correlation to the drastic rise
    in autism.

    • http://twitter.com/troymation Troy Miller

      Nia:
      The “evidence” that the doctor who linked vaccinations with autism, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, presented was debunked in 2011, and Wakefield was found to have manipulated his facts. (http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/01/06/autism.vaccines/index.html)Also, according to the CDC, Thimerosol has not been used in childhood vaccines since 2001 (http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/Concerns/thimerosal/thimerosal_faqs.html), and as a matter of fact, “the evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism.” (http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/Concerns/Autism/Index.html)Please do your own research and do not spread false information about the causes of autism. The increase in unvaccinated children has also led to an outbreak of whooping cough in many areas of the country. Also, if unvaccinated children are carriers of illnesses like whooping cough, the flu, polio, etc, and are around immunocompromised individuals or young children, they are also placed in danger. 

      • Nia

        I really urge you to look beyond the information that is given to you and look to creditable sources that are independent from the government and pharmaceutical companies influence.So you nor your children will fall victim to the  cruel “game” that they are playing with our lives.

      • Hotfitmama76

        I find it interesting that any one who speaks up against the dangers of vaccines is quickly shut down or found to be some type of “fraud.” As Nia mentioned, do your research and look into who is funding the studies that supposedly prove no link between vaccines and autism. There is lots of money to be made and those getting rich won’t have anyone stopping the bank rolls from coming in, regardless of whose children are permanently damaged.

        Have you ever tried telling the parent of a child who began having febrile seizures or who regressed into Autism after vaccines that there is no connection?

      • Hotfitmama76

         Also, check out the statistics for the flu shot on the cdc’s own website. Not effective. Why don’t they suggest vitamin d3 and a healthy lifestyle first? As for whooping cough. Check out your facts. The majority of those who contracted it were supposedly vaccinated. Polio, was eradicated way before the vaccine was given, due to clean water, better health conditions etc.

  • Badgurl_2801

    I have a son who was diagnosed with autism at a very early age. I guess it really depends on the involvement of the parents and environment. I say as soon as you notice delays in your child’s development seek help. The sooner the better

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  • Respondergirl08

    I am an Afro American educator. Throughout my career, I’ve taught several autistic children, and my 4 year old son is also on the spectrum. I knew that he was when he was about 2. (I followed milestone charts, notices his behaviors) While others may not believe in an early diagnosis, I knew VERY EARLY that something was a little off, and I’m so happy that I voiced those concerns. Had we listened to family and friends, my son would go without his speech, OT, and ABA therapies. All of which have made his life so much easier.

    His doctor voice concerns when my son turned 2, then 3, and finally pushed us to get him tested when he turned 4. However, each year, the doctor would say he see’s Asperger;s symptoms. I met an Autism Specialist while working on my doctorate, and did a lot of research so that I could be educated on what was ahead. While my son is high functioning, his social behavior and sensory issues are always a challenge, so my heart goes out to anyone with severe autistic kids.

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  • AKAHLF

    I have a doctorate in clinical psychology…I see many children with autism and asperger’s. When I interview the parents and ask about developmental milestones – like language acquisition, shared communication, social skills, and adaptive behaviors – such as daily living skills and socialization, the problems are there! The parents reported that they knew something was *not quite right* with their child and the doctors tried to dismiss their suspicions. So, the end result is our children being diagnosed later. There are many programs that have been proven to work if utilized while the child is very young!

    I tell people all the time that their intuitions are correct and to seek several professional opinions until you have peace with the outcome.

  • Dmissy

    I have adhd, anxiety, social anxiety and depression. I had the symptoms of all those when I was a kid but was not diagnosed till I was in college. The problem is even when we take our kids to doctors we either don’t take them to the right doctors or doctors just dismiss us. My mother just went with the doc and never got a second opinion. It wasn’t until I pushed when I was 20 in college I was diagnosed properly. We have to push to be taken seriously.

    Also teachers who teach in urban districts don’t look for kids with Asperger’s, mild autism or inattentive adhd.

  • http://scienceofmarriageblog.com/ Jocelyn

    I am an African American female finishing up my Ph.D. in Human Genetics. I study Fragile X Syndrome which is the most commonly inherited form of autism spectrum disorder. 

    I have much experience dealing with patients and parents and my professional opinion tells me that many parents simply just do not think there is something wrong with their children. They simply think their kids have some sort of behavioral problem, meaning they are just disobedient or don’t want to listen (basically just saying, “He/She is just bad.”) when for many this is not the case. Most African American kids are diagnosed late because the parents are not aware at which developmental time points their kids should be reaching certain milestones like, sitting up unassisted, reaching for things, speaking, maintaining eye contact/the ability to focus on objects or faces or handle multi-step tasks. Unfortunately because some parents think their kids are just bad or don’t listen when really the kids simply can’t process multi-step instructions go under the radar. Also, those parents who think their kids are unusually shy when really there is a tremendous delay in their social interaction have kids that go under the autism radar. We as a people need to be better educated on the symptoms of autism which is why I advocate as much as possible to have our tax dollars go towards biomedical research and autism awareness. 

  • Rah Truth

    In general, we are not as quick to put children on pills. Also, many (not all) of the children “diagnosed” with this, are perfectly fine. I’ve seen teachers attempt to diagnose children b/c they felt something was wrong when, in actuality, the teacher/parent just didn’t have good discipline techniques or the child is just active or bored. Be careful.

  • Klittle

    My 4 year old was recently diagnosed with autism but has been receiving services since he was 18 months old. There are services available and not all are expensive. There is a stigma that a child is just “bad.” I get looks when we’re out all the time. People need to stop judging and start loving more. Early intervention is key!

  • Klittle

    My 4 year old was recently diagnosed with autism but has been receiving services since he was 18 months old. There are services available and not all are expensive. There is a stigma that a child is just “bad.” I get looks when we’re out all the time. People need to stop judging and start loving more. Early intervention is key!

    • SheBe

      If you don’t mind me asking, what made you seek help? What behaviors did you notice?

  • tiffanysince1987

    “social stigma attached to mental health issues within the black community”… Listen up black folks there are other means of problem solving other than running straight to “the church” Now I am not knocking anyone’s religious/spiritual beliefs but the year is 2012 and people need to know that science and faith can meet halfway and that these worldy matters are not just black and white. I wish some would step out of their own boxes and embrace change and educate themselves on matters that they find foriegn (unknown).. There is a whole world of different people outside of the ten mile radius where you live.

  • tiffanysince1987

    “social stigma attached to mental health issues within the black community”… Listen up black folks there are other means of problem solving other than running straight to “the church” Now I am not knocking anyone’s religious/spiritual beliefs but the year is 2012 and people need to know that science and faith can meet halfway and that these worldy matters are not just black and white. I wish some would step out of their own boxes and embrace change and educate themselves on matters that they find foriegn (unknown).. There is a whole world of different people outside of the ten mile radius where you live.

  • SheBe

    I know a young man who has Aspergers syndrome. He truly isn’t functional in an everyday setting. His parents, well his mother, didn’t find out why until he was almost out of high school because she just assumed he was lazy and didn’t care about everyday things. His mother treats him like he is less than human. Truly sad! I think it’s ignored because we see it as a cover up. All too often, i think a label is placed on behavior thats not normal or easily controlled. For example, is it ADHD or a child who is truly just “bad” as hell? I also think many have no access to the appropriate care and/or are ashamed to address it (a.k.a saving face).

  • SheBe

    I know a young man who has Aspergers syndrome. He truly isn’t functional in an everyday setting. His parents, well his mother, didn’t find out why until he was almost out of high school because she just assumed he was lazy and didn’t care about everyday things. His mother treats him like he is less than human. Truly sad! I think it’s ignored because we see it as a cover up. All too often, i think a label is placed on behavior thats not normal or easily controlled. For example, is it ADHD or a child who is truly just “bad” as hell? I also think many have no access to the appropriate care and/or are ashamed to address it (a.k.a saving face).

    • SheBe

      Correction – …behavior that is not *PERCEIVED* as normal….

    • AKAHLF

      Asperger’s is usually diagnosed much later than autism…because language and intelligence is usually developmentally average. Social skills are still problematic in those with autism and asperger’s.