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Black, Latinx kids and girls with autism are falling through the cracks

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Autism itself doesn’t discriminate but gender, racial, ethnic and sociodemographic disparities do affect the diagnosis of and services for many kids with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

How important is early screening, diagnosis and treatment for long-term outcomes for individuals with autism? What’s at risk if diagnosis is delayed? What can be done better or differently to improve the status quo for kids on the spectrum who are falling through the cracks?

Racial and ethnic disparities

Approximately 1 in 54 children has been identified as having ASD, but research shows that Black and Latinx kids are diagnosed later and less often than those who are white.

A report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2020 reveals persistent disparities in early ASD evaluation and diagnosis for Black children, and that Hispanic children are identified as having ASD less frequently than white or Black children.

Black kids with ASD are also more likely to be misdiagnosed with an adjustment or conduct disorder than their white counterparts.

What is preventing earlier diagnosis and treatment among Black and Latinx kids? Is structural racism to blame for these disparities?

How can culturally informed providers and culturally relevant interventions improve outcomes for underserved children with ASD and their families?

Gender disparities

Girls with autism tend to exhibit different traits than autistic boys and a growing body of evidence shows that because of these differences, autistic girls are often overlooked or misdiagnosed, and miss out on early intervention.

The CDC says boys are 4.3 times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with autism but some experts question this statistic, blaming diagnostic bias and a skewed sex ratio in research literature for the common misconception that autism primarily affects boys.

Research also shows individuals with autism spectrum disorder are also more likely to be gender-diverse than non-autistic people.

How does autism manifest differently in girls and nonbinary individuals? Are services tailored to address these differences?

How could more research and a better understanding of the prevalence and development of autism among kids in these groups help them receive more accurate and timely diagnoses and treatments?

Guests:

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org or tweet @TPRSource.

*This interview was recorded on Monday, November 8.