(BlackDoctor.org) – There are many myths about autism floating around out there, but one that specifically affects the African American Community is that autism is a “white disorder.” The truth of the matter is that autism affects every race, ethnic group, and socio-economic status. However, there are clear racial disparities in healthcare and special education, as studies have consistently reported negative biases toward minorities in the areas of diagnosis and treatment.
African American autistic children are diagnosed later, receive more misdiagnoses, and are more likely to be misdiagnosed as having organic psychoses, mental retardation, or selective mutism. A study by Dr. David Mandell in October 2005, reported that, on average, the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) was delayed by almost two years among African American children – to 7.5 years old – as compared to their Caucasian counterparts, whose autism is diagnosed at an average 5.5 years old.
When Do Children Usually Show Signs of Autism?
Autism is a brain disorder that usually affects a person’s capacity to communicate and create relationships with family and other people. Also, it affects how the person sees, feels and experiences the world around them. Symptoms are measurable by certain screening tools at 18 months of age. However, parents and experts in autism treatment can usually detect symptoms before this time.
In general, a formal diagnosis of autism can be made when a child is two, but is usually made when a child is between two and three, when he or she has a noticeable delay in developing language skills.
Early Warning Signs
At 6 months:
• Not making eye contact with parents during interaction.
• Not cooing or babbling.
• Not smiling when parents smile.
• Not participating in vocal turn-taking (baby makes a sound, adult makes a sound, and so forth).
• Not responding to peek-a-boo game.
At 12 months:
• No attempts to speak.
• Not pointing, waving or grasping.
• No response when name is called.
• Indifferent to others.
• Repetitive body motions such as rocking or hand flapping.
• Fixation on a single object.
• Oversensitivity to textures, smells, sounds.
• Strong resistance to change in routine.
• Any loss of language.
At 24 months:
• Does not initiate two-word phrases (that is, doesn’t just echo words).
• Any loss of words or developmental skill.
Early Intervention and Treatment
By seeking help at an early age (from birth to age 3) when the child’s brain is still developing, the effects of autism can be reduced by the time the child enters kindergarten. The most common treatments include speech therapy, diet, and relationship therapy.