Later Diagnosis of Autism Among Minority Children Raises Concern
There is "widespread" concern about whether black and other minority children with autism are being diagnosed early enough or are being misdiagnosed, the Hartford Courant reports.
According to a 2002 study of children enrolled in Medicaid, black children on average were diagnosed with autism 18 months later than white children. White children were diagnosed at age 6.3, compared with 7.9 for black children. Researcher David Mandell, assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, also found that black children were 2.6 times less likely than white children to be diagnosed with autism during the first visit to a specialist and more likely to be misdiagnosed with behavior and adjustment disorders.
Thyde Dumont-Mathieu, a developmental pediatrician at the University of Connecticut, added, "I know some (parents) have said their child as a black child is more likely to be labeled as having oppositional defiance disorder than as having autism."
Access to a specialist, insurance, cost, and cultural and communication factors are likely contributors to later diagnoses for minority children, the Courant reports. In addition, Dumont-Mathieu said that different cultures might focus on different symptoms, which can delay diagnosis.
It is best to diagnose children with autism by age three so the child can immediately begin intervention programs, according to the Courant. Dumont-Mathieu said, "It is crucial to identify children with autistic-spectrum disorders as early as possible, as studies have demonstrated that the provision of early, intensive, high-quality intervention services is associated with improved outcomes."
The National Autism Association is establishing a committee that will raise autism awareness among minority communities to address the issue, Wendy Fournier, president of the association, said (Megan, Hartford Courant, 5/14).