A study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics reports on a survey of pediatricians that indicates that Hispanics may experience delay in diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Doctors cited that while children of Hispanic descent are properly diagnosed, their diagnosis is often made years after most other children of non-Hispanic descent are diagnosed.
A study published last year indicated that Latino children are diagnosed with ASD less often and later than white children.
A survey of 267 primary care pediatricians (PCPs) in California, the state with the highest Hispanic population, was conducted in order to determine how providers screened for autism. The survey found that 81% of PCPs offered some form of developmental screening, 29% of PCPs offered Spanish ASD screening per American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines and only 10% offered both Spanish general developmental and Spanish ASD screening per American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines.
The pediatricians indicated various factors leading to this delay in diagnosis, including lack of awareness of ASD in the Hispanic community, language differences between doctors and patients and limited access to primary care. The most frequent barrier indicated was a lack of access to developmental specialists.
Multiple factors in the primary care setting may contribute to delayed ASD identification for Latinos. Promoting language-appropriate screening, disseminating culturally appropriate ASD materials to Latino families, improving the specialist workforce, and providing PCP support in screening and referral of Latino children may be important ways to reduce racial and ethnic differences in care.
The researchers point to several modifiable factors that may contribute to ASD diagnostic delays among the Hispanic population, including the development of cheaper screening tools to address the gaps in patient diagnosis due to language barriers. The results of this study provide easily implementable interventions to reduce racial and ethnic differences in ASD care.
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