Cleveland ABA therapists

Study: Autism Diagnosed Later in Black Children

It’s well-established that racial disparity exists in numerous aspects of U.S. healthcare, with higher rates of illness and infirmity and lower rates of insurance coverage and quality care. Now, our Cleveland ABA therapists have learned of a new study published in the journal Pediatrics that found Black Americans are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at a much later stage than their White counterparts. In turn what this means is they are missing out on essential early intervention treatment that is critical to helping them overcome significant social and academic challenges in life.

Important to note: It’s the parents delaying the diagnosis, according to study authors.

“There’s something going on in the system,” said Dr. Daniel Geschwind, professor of neurology at the University of California and director of the Center for Autism Research and Treatment. In the study, Black parents reportedly noticed something was “not quite right” early on and sought medical help – and had insurance to cover evaluations and treatment. Even so, approximately 4 in 10 had to see a medical provider numerous times before their child received an autism diagnosis. Our ABA therapists know that getting appointments with specialists who can give a diagnosis like that can take well over 6 months each. (And lack of access to the kind of professionals qualified to make an autism diagnosis was specifically listed as one of the factors contributing to delay for about one-third of Black children ultimately diagnosed.)

There is no “official” timeline for an autism diagnosis, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the median timeline is 52 months. For Black children, however, researchers found it’s closer to  65 months. That is more than a year of time lost – at a time when it is critical because neuro-pathways are fast developing. ABA therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy and other early intervention services are most effective the sooner they start.

Misdiagnosis is another problem. Some Black children were diagnosed with oppositional defiance disorder or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder before they were ultimately given the correct diagnosis of autism. Many early intervention ABA therapy plans of care call for an intensive 20 hours weekly to start. One year of treatment delayed can mean more than 1,000 hours of services – which can be extremely detrimental to a developing toddler or preschool child.

The new analysis was based on research involving nearly 600 Black children in the U.S. who were diagnosed with the complex neurological disorder affecting key language and social skills.

Our Cleveland ABA Therapists Provide Prompt Assessments, Quality Care to All 

The Cleveland ABA therapists at Therapy & Wellness Connection are committed to providing accurate, prompt assessments and the highest quality care for all of our prospective and existing patients.

Study authors report there are numerous systemic issues that contribute to disparate diagnosis timelines. Greater access to trained professionals is an imperative, as is better reimbursement through insurance coverage. Our team is committed to helping every family navigate these challenges and help them in advocating for their children.

If any parents have concerns about how their child is developing, we are committed to being responsive and supportive – from pre-diagnosis and through every step of treatment. Call or email our team today to see how we can help you kick start the process.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides ABA therapy to children in Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Akron and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, homeschooling, alternative schooling, virtual therapy and education, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

For Black Kids, Autism Caught Late in the Game, Aug. 24, 2020, By Steven Reinberg, HealthDay

More Blog Entries:

What is a Parent’s Role in Akron ABA Therapy? Aug. 7, 2020, Cleveland ABA Therapists’ Blog