The rate of diagnosis for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is the same among all racial groups — one in 110, according to current estimates. However, a study by a Florida State University researcher has found that African-American children tend to be diagnosed later than white children, which results in a longer and more intensive intervention.
The reasons for later diagnoses include a lack of access to quality, affordable, culturally competent health care, according to Martell Teasley, an associate professor in Florida State's College of Social Work who has conducted a comprehensive review of researchliterature on autism and African-American children. In addition, the stigma attached to mental health conditions within the black community contribute to misdiagnoses of autism, and underuse of available treatment services.
"There are no subjective criteria for diagnosing autism. Only brain scans can truly provide appropriate diagnoses, because we are dealing with biological and chemical imbalances in the brain,"* Teasley said. "Not every child is going to have access to this kind of medical evaluation, particularly those who are indigent and don't have health care funding."
Teasley examined ASD diagnosis and treatment strategies, and their effect on African-American families, in "Autism and the African-American Community," a paper published in a special issue of the journal Social Work in Public Health (Vol. 26, Issue 4, 2011) that dealt with health-care policy issues in the black community related to the human genome. Teasley co-wrote the paper with Ruby Gourdine, a professor of social work at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and Tiffany Baffour, an associate professor of social work at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina.*This statement is inaccurate. Researchers are working to develop brain scans, but they are not yet part of standard clinical practice.