A study by a Florida State University researcher has shown that African-American children tend to be diagnosed with autism later than other children, which can have a negative impact on their treatment outcomes.
“Intervention for any autistic child needs to start around age 3, so we can get the child to begin to learn how to eat right and develop normal, healthy routines, which will result in a better developmental outcome,” Martell Teasley, an associate professor in Florida State’s College of Social Work said. “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.”
One study found that the length of time from concerns to early intervention for African-American children with developmental disabilities is much longer than the 5.2 months national average.
Some reasons for delayed diagnoses were lack of access to quality, affordable, culturally competent health care, according to Teasley who has conducted a comprehensive review of research literature on autism and African-American children. In addition to this, the stigma attached to mental health conditions within the African-American community can contribute to misdiagnoses of autism, and under use of available treatment services.
“Less discussion about autism among African-Americans or between African-Americans and health care providers leads to misdiagnoses, a lack of treatment and a lack of services,” Teasley said. “This will lead to greater challenges for families — more stress and anxiety, and poorer developmental outcomes.”
Once a child is diagnosed with ASD, Teasley says both the child and the members of his or her family need to receive appropriate training and counseling.
“The children need behavioral counseling so they can develop the skills to live as independently as possible,” Teasley said. “The families need to learn how to work with children who are autistic.”