Early diagnosis is essential for children with autism, but minority children tend to be diagnosed later than white children, according to an article on Huffingtonpost.com.

HuffPo quotes an expert on autism who says cultural differences can lead to delayed diagnosis of autism in black children.

“The biggest thing I want parents to know is we can do something about it to help your child,” says Dr. Rebecca Landa, autism director at Baltimore’s Kennedy Krieger Institute.

She gives examples of cultural differences, for instance, toddlers pointing before they talk is a key early sign of normal development. But pointing is considered rude in some cultures, and some black parents might miss that important sign due to cultural beliefs and superstitions.

And some new parents don’t worry if their child is slow to start talking because other members of their family were slow to talk.

Singer Toni Braxton’s 9-year-old son, Diezel (pictured above), was diagnosed with autism at age 3.

“I’m lucky,” said Braxton in an interview with OK magazine. “I try to tell most parents ‘don’t dismiss the signs.’ It’s OK. When you find out early, you can get them all the help they need.”

According to Dr. Landa, minority children have more severe developmental delays when compared with their white counterparts.

Dr. Landa is hoping to change that statistic by examining the racial and ethnic disparity in language development at her well-known toddler treatment program at Kennedy Krieger Institute.

In one of her studies of language development, the minority patients lagged four months behind the white autistic kids.

One parent in Dr. Landa’s program worried that her son Matthew, then 14 months, wasn’t talking as well as his peers. Boys are slower to talk than girls, her family and friends assured her.

“I just knew something was wrong,” recalls Marlo Lemon, of Randallstown, Md.

Matthew was enrolled in developmental therapy by age 18 months, and was formally diagnosed with autism when he turned 2 and Lemon enrolled him in Kennedy Krieger’s toddler program as well. In many of his therapy classes, Lemon says, Matthew was the only African-American.

Now 7, Matthew still doesn’t speak but Lemon says he is making huge strides learning how to communicate using therapies such as manding.

“I want other minority families to get involved early, be relentless,” says Lemon, who now works part-time counseling families about how to find services early.

Among the early warning signs of autism are:

  • Not responding to their name by 12 months, or not pointing to show interest by 14 months.
  • Avoiding eye contact, wanting to play alone, not smiling when smiled at.
  • Saying few words.
  • Landa says between 18 and 26 months, kids should make short phrases like “my shoe” or “where’s mommy,” and should be adding to their vocabulary weekly.

  • Not following simple multi-step commands.
  • Not playing pretend.
  • Behavioral problems such as flapping their hands or spinning in circles.
  • More info on the Web

    Autism – Autism.com

    Autism – Mayo Clinic


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