Obtaining an Autism Diagnosis Takes Longer for African-American Children

September 02, 2020

AAP Fears Structural Racism

Shocking new research from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) shows that it takes three years along with multiple visits to several medical providers before African-American children are diagnosed with autism. After analyzing data on 584 African-American children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), AAP researchers found the average age of diagnosis to be 5.4 years, while the average age for an autism diagnosis for all races in the United States is 3.1 years. Additionally, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an experienced professional can diagnose ASD by age two.

A delay in an ASD diagnosis can have tragic consequences for children who miss the critical window for early intervention. Since intellectual disabilities have been shown to affect African- American children more often than white children, 47% opposed to 27% respectively, the study’s authors are concerned that this barrier to early treatment could contribute to the higher rates of intellectual disability for this cohort.

Lead author of the study, John Constantino, calls on the medical community to start giving African-American children more timely autism diagnoses and greater access to treatments, including early intervention. He believes these efforts are important in order to ascertain if there are biological differences for the higher rate of intellectual disability in Black children with ASD. Constantino states, “The burden of proof is on our field to show that if you were to level the playing field for diagnosis and access to services, it is not possible to close that gap. I suspect if we give these children the opportunity, then they will do significantly better.”

Original Study

MedPageToday article

AAP Commentary

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