Minority, Low-Income Students Less Likely To Receive Autism Diagnosis Than More Affluent Counterparts, Survey Finds
A survey by Long Island Newsday shows that more affluent school districts in Long Island classify more than five times as many of their students with autism as lower-income districts, which could mean that many poor, minority students might not be receiving the same services as other students, according to advocates.
The survey compared the proportion of students with autism in all Long Island school systems with enrollments above 500 students.
According to Newsday, there are more than 3,000 cases of autism on Long Island. School districts with the highest rates of autism tended to be mostly affluent and white, while districts with the lowest rates tended to be mostly black or Hispanic and have greater concentrations of poverty.
Because the schools had "far less variation" in terms of overall percentages of students with disabilities, experts believe that some minority students are being incorrectly classified as having disabilities other than autism, Newsday reports.
Part of the problem might be related to differences in perspectives on autism among various races and ethnicities, according to Newsday. For example, many white parents actively seek special-education classifications for their children, while black and Hispanic parents tend to be "warier" of special-education programs, which historically placed many minority students in classes that were beneath their ability levels, Newsday reports.
In addition, a lack of access to quality health care in lower-income neighborhoods might result in fewer or later autism diagnoses among minority children. Thomas Giannotti -- assistant superintendent for special education at Copiague school district, where 70% of students are black or Hispanic -- said, "I really do think it's a matter of access -- it's access to the appropriate medical professions, appropriate psychologists and hospitals" (Hildebrand, Long Island Newsday, 1/10).