Autism in minority children is not detected early enough

While there's no cure for autism, early diagnosis is considered key in treating this disorder. Unfortunately, studies show that minority children tend to be diagnosed later than their white counterparts and that's why researchers, pediatricians and parents of autistic kids want to raise awareness of the warning signs.

"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. She's researching what's preventing different populations from getting that help.

According to her research, two differences stand out, one is cultural and the other one socioeconomic, which is why the Latino community needs to listen up. 

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Landa says that culture can play a role in how parents measure developmental milestones--like when a child is supposed to start talking. In other words, this can go something like this: You're worried that your son is already 15 months old, but he's not really even babbling. When you mention it to your family, your mom reminds you that boys talk much later and your abuela says that el hijo de fulanita de tal didn't say a word until he was 2 and he's perfectly fine.

Culture also plays a role in the kind of relationship you have with doctors. For example, you might have been taught not to question people of authority, like doctors, so that whatever they say goes. And yet, doctors are human beings too and they can and do make misdiagnosis. 

So here's the bottom line, if there's anything at all that seems off about your child regardless of how young he is, ignore what others are telling you, err on the side of caution and go get him checked. If your pediatrician dismisses your concern, look for someone else until you get the answers you're looking for because, in autism, time is of the essence. 

In case you're wondering, here are some early warning signs, according to Landa:

At 6 months:

  • Avoiding eye contact, not smiling when smiled at
  • Not cooing or babbling
  • Not responding to peek-a-boo game

At 12 months:

  • No attempts to speak, no response when name is called
  • No pointing, waving or grasping
  • Fixation on a single object
  • Indifferent to others

In the end, remember that no one knows your child better than you, so be relentless!

How much of a role do you think culture plays in delaying an autism diagnosis? 

Image via champusuicida/flickr

Topics: hispanic children