January 16, 2018
1 min read

Black parents underreport autism concerns in their children

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Black parents mentioned significantly fewer autism concerns as well as fewer repetitive, restricted and social behavior concerns in their children vs. white parents, according to findings recently published in Autism.

“Despite research indicating that autism spectrum disorder is no less common in black than white children, black children are still diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder later than their white peers. These delays prevent black children from receiving critical autism-specific early intervention,” Meghan Rose Donohue, PhD candidate, department of psychology at Georgia State University, told Healio Family Medicine. “It is crucial that we investigate potential reasons for these disparities in order to address the barriers to early diagnosis for black children.”

Researchers analyzed questionnaires completed by 174 parents, including 58 black parents, of children aged 18 to 40 months who screened positive for ASD but before a diagnostic evaluation had taken place. Questions focused on the parent’s concerns, the child’s developmental milestones and behavioral details, medical history, pre- and perinatal history, family history and demographics.

Donohue and colleagues found that:

  • Black parents had significantly fewer ASD-related worries than white parents.
  • White parents had 2.61 times (95% CI, 1.17-5.831) greater odds of indicating worry over social concern than black parents.
  • White parents had 4.12 times (95% CI, 1.36-12.46) greater odds of indicating worry over restrictive or repetitive behavior than black parents.
  • Donohue provided some tips on how primary care physicians can implement the findings into practice.

“Our findings underscore the importance of using ASD-specific screeners that probe directly for autism spectrum disorder symptoms and rely much less heavily on parents’ knowledge of signs of this disorder in their child,” she said.

“This work also suggests a potential benefit in PCPs providing education about specific red flags for ASD and other developmental difficulties prior to eliciting parent concerns. Additionally, probing for typical child behaviors rather than parent concerns may elicit important information for determining risk for ASD and other developmental delays,” she added.

Donohue also said that an “important next step” is to ascertain if there is a correlation between blacks’ knowledge of ASD and their likelihood to report its symptoms. – by Janel Miller

Disclosure: Donohue reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the study for the other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.