Latino children with autism spectrum disorders diagnosed later, fewer treatment services

By Sandra Magaña, MSW, PhD
Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on DD and Health
University of Illinois at Chicago

Emerging evidence shows racial and ethnic disparities in diagnosis and treatment for autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Latinos represent the largest minority population in the United States and one of the fastest growing ASD populations. Research shows that children with ASD have better outcomes if they receive early evidenced-based treatment. It is important to identify disparities in receipt of treatment and services as the first step in ensuring all children with ASD receive early care.

What did you do in your research?
We conducted a survey comparing Latino (48 participants) and non-Latino White (56 participants) children in Wisconsin on age of diagnosis, whether they received key public services typical for children with ASD, the number of services they were currently receiving, and unmet service needs.

What did you find out?
We found that Latino children with ASD were diagnosed, on average, a year later and were less likely to have received early intervention and a publicly funded behavioral program for children with ASD than non-Latino White children. They also received fewer services and had higher unmet service needs. Contributing factors to lower service receipt among Latinos compared to Whites included lower maternal education levels and fewer sources of knowledge about ASD.

What are the take-home messages?
It is important to increase access to and knowledge of resources available to families in order to reduce disparities in services. Because the Latina mothers in our sample had low levels of education, many were immigrants and had language barriers, they were less likely to have access to key information and knowledge about ASD treatments and services, and how to advocate for services. Service providers should find ways to provide this information and knowledge to Latino immigrant families including empowerment-based approaches.

To learn more about these findings contact
Sandy Magana.

Full Journal Article
Magaña, S., Lopez, K., Aguinaga, A., & Morton, H. (2013). Access to Diagnosis and Treatment Services Among Latino Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 51(3), 141-153.