Autism too often missed in Latino children

August 27, 2013

Barely one-fourth (29%) of primary care physicians offer Spanish screening for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and only 1 in every 10 offers both Spanish general development and Spanish ASD screening as recommended by AAP.

 

Barely one-fourth (29%) of primary care physicians (PCPs) offer Spanish screening for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and only 1 in every 10 offers both Spanish general development and Spanish ASD screening as recommended by AAP.

As a result, Latino children are diagnosed with ASD less often and at an older age than white children.

In this first study to investigate the perspectives of pediatricians on the disparities in ASD identification, researchers from Oregon and Massachusetts mailed a survey to a random sample of California pediatricians.

They found, not surprisingly, that many PCPs find it more difficult to assess ASD in children who speak Spanish as their primary language. In other words, even when they are implementing Spanish ASD screening, they find it harder to recognize the signs and symptoms of ASD, and this was the case even in practices with greater than 25% Latino patients.

Additionally, the researchers found that many pediatricians believe that Latino parents are less knowledgeable about ASD, particularly those who speak Spanish as their primary language. They noted that they do not know if this view is accurate and that it deserves further investigation.

Lastly, the investigators found that 3 of 4 pediatricians said that access, communication, or cultural barriers exist to ASD care for Latino children. The pediatricians experiencing these barriers found ASD particularly difficult to identify.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in every 88 children has ASD, with 5 times as many boys diagnosed as girls.

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