A new study has found that black and hispanic children may be overlooked for autism, and less likely to be identified than white children. The findings have raised concern among autism experts and educators.
The rates of autism identification at schools across the nation were analyzed by researchers between 2000 and 2007. The rates show students who were identified by schools as having autism, but not necessarily diagnosed by a doctor.
Rates among all students for autism identification increased in all states, but was not as large as the increase predicted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Among black students, rates climbed in all states except Alaska and Montana. Rates among Hispanic students increased in most states with the exception of Kentucky, Louisiana, and District of Columbia. However, for black and Hispanic students, the rate increases were much smaller than the increases for whites. The study was published in the November issue of the Journal of Special Education.
Researchers are unsure of what is behind the trend evidenced by these figures. One possibility is that there is an uneven access to autism services, and another is that schools serving black and Hispanic children may be missing the signals.
“Nearly every state that had proportional representation of students in 2000 underidentified black and Hispanic students in 2007,” Jason Travers, assistant professor of special education at the University of Kansas, and colleagues, wrote.
In a news release, the researchers said that minority students may not be getting an equal level of autism services as white students. The racial differences are troubling, and suggest unequal access to autism services.