University Study Finds That Black Children Are Diagnosed With Autism Later Than White Children

About one on every 110 children is diagnosed with autism. There is no racial disparity in the rates in which Black and White children are diagnosed. But new research, published in the journal Social Work in Public Health, finds that Black children on average tend to be diagnosed at a later age than is the case for White children.

The article was written by three scholars: Martell Teasley, an associate professor of social work at Florida State University, Ruby Gourdine, a professor of social work at Howard University, and Tiffany Baffour, an associate professor of social work at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina.

Martell Teasley

The authors state that the discrepancy is probably due to unequal access to quality healthcare. “There are no subjective criteria for diagnosing autism. Only brain scans can truly provide appropriate diagnoses, because we are dealing with biological and chemical imbalances in the brain,” Teasley said. “Not every child is going to have access to this kind of medical evaluation, particularly those who are indigent and don’t have health care funding.”

Another reason may be that because of the social stigma, some Black parents are reluctant to accept a diagnosis of autism. “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.”

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