Autism On The Rise Among Hispanic/Latino Children


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According to the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention ,  since 2010, 1 in 68 children in the U.S. has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, or  ASD, a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. To our surprise, the largest increases from 2002 to 2008 were noted among Hispanic children, non-Hispanic black children, and children without co-occurring intellectual disability. Even more puzzling is the fact that boys have a 1 in 42 chance of being diagnosed with autism in the state of New Jersey alone. The Center for Diseases Control and Prevention tables of autism prevalence by state and ethnicity can be accessed here.
Although some Hispanic/Latino parents could attribute some early autism-like behavior to “malcrianzas” “or mis-behavior, therefore missing some early signs, a recent study by the journal of Pediatrics concluded that the main reason our community was seeing lower diagnosis rate was due to:

  • Latino to white disparities in age at autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis may be modified by primary care pediatrician (PCP) practices and beliefs.
  • Primary Care Physician’s believe that Latino parents are less knowledgeable about ASDs than white parents
  • Lack of access to ASD specialists and appropriate Spanish language screening tools

Some children may exhibit signs of autism as early as one year old while others may start regressing around 18-24 months. At which point autistic children may start to lose vocabulary, avoid eye contact, engage in echolalia which is when a child repeats verbal information stated by others vs. initiating it, throw frequent tantrums/meltdowns over the slightest change in routine, have a penchant for repetitive behavior, have difficulty transitioning from activity to activity or stop eating a varied diet (only eats same textured foods). Often, if the child attends pre-school/daycare, care takers and teachers may alert parents of their children’s sudden change in social interaction with peers i.e. aggressiveness, lack of interest to play and eat or inability to follow simple circle time routines.
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