Most of what’s known about autism disparities comes from health data or projections based on sample groups. By looking at individual numbers from individual schools, Travers’ study underscores how Hispanic and African-American students are missing out on services to which they are legally entitled.
Mandell hopes the new findings will serve as a call to arms.
“For a long time, advocacy around autism has really been led by very well-meaning, very effective, relatively wealthy or privileged individuals. And I think that this suggests an urgent need to engage other families in this battle to obtain appropriate care for children with autism,” he says.
After finishing his snack, Wendy Santillan’s son [Raoul, of Kansas City, KS] grabs his mother’s smart phone. Wendy was lucky; she found help for Raoul through Oasis, a University of Kansas training program for parents of autistic children geared toward families living in rural or remote areas.
Raoul is doing well. Defying stereotypical autism behavior, he smiles and seems to enjoy playing with his mother. But Wendy says she gets nervous thinking about his future and what will happen when he starts grade school.
“I don’t know what’s coming next, you know?” she says. “I don’t know if there’s public resources or if I’m going to have to put him in private. I don’t know. I have no idea what’s next. And it’s a worry. Of course it’s a worry, as a parent.”
Wendy still encounters hostility from some Hispanic parents when she suggests their children may have symptoms of autism. So she’s not only doing all she can to educate herself about the disorder; she’s working to educate other families in her community as well.