Disparities in Diagnosis and Treatment of Autism in Latino and Non-Latino White Families


Pediatrics: Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. 2017 May


Research has highlighted racial/ethnic disparities in care of children with Autism Spectrum Disease (ASD). Disparities are especially notable among US Latino children: ASD is diagnosed less often among Latino children compared with non-Latino white (NLW) children. Latino children are less often diagnosed before age 4 and are diagnosed later than NLW children with similar clinical presentations. When Latino children are diagnosed, they are more likely to have severe presentations, such as comorbid intellectual disability. After diagnosis, Latino children with ASD receive fewer evidence-based treatments and less medical specialty care than NLW. This study demonstrated that barriers to ASD diagnosis were prevalent for Latino families, (n = 352) who experienced a mean of 8 of 15 barriers to ASD diagnosis. The most prevalent barriers overall were “stress of diagnostic process,” “parent knowledge about ASD,” and “understanding medical system.” Results suggest that health care quality among Latino families of children with ASD remains problematic. The study brings a better understanding of specific problems in the diagnosis and treatment process, which may ultimately improve healthcare quality and promote health equity among children with ASD.

Key Takeaway

Racial/ethnic disparities exist in early identification and treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), particularly among Latino children. Children in Latino families with parental limited English proficiency experienced different diagnostic barriers, used less ASD treatment, and had more unmet ASD therapy needs than children in English-proficient Latino families or children in non-Latino white families. Increasing ASD-related knowledge and provider trust may decrease disparities in the diagnosis and treatment of ASD among US Latinos.

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