Study: Black children disproportionately face autism diagnosis delays

Diagnosing a child with autism typically is a monthslong process involving multiple assessments, but for Black children the delay was found to average more than three years in a recent study.

Diagnosing a child with autism typically is a monthslong process involving multiple assessments, but for Black children the delay was found to average more than three years in a recent study.

From the parents’ first concerns to a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the average length of time was 3.5 years with the children averaging age 5 at diagnosis, according to the study published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

The consequences in delays for Black children are particularly severe because Black families disproportionately face disparities in getting services and the quality of services, the authors concluded.

“If you see signs that your child may have ASD, don’t delay seeking a diagnosis. Early diagnosis allows for appropriate education and support as your child develops so they have skills, including social skills, to give them the potential for a better life,” said Gregory N. Barnes, M.D., Ph.D., child neurologist at the Norton Children’s Autism Center, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine.

Through the Cardinal Success Program @ Nia Center, the Norton Children’s Autism Center has recruited and trained graduate students to help expedite specialized autism care. With professional supervision, the students also screen children for autism.

The Cardinal Success Program @ Nia Center is a partnership of the University of Louisville’s College of Education and Human Development, Department of Counseling and Human Development and the West Louisville community.

Norton Children’s Autism Center

Family-centered care with a focus on helping children and families meet their goals through collaboration with the area’s leading autism resources.

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Screening and diagnosing autism

There is no blood test for autism. Providers need to evaluate the child’s developmental history and behavior to make a diagnosis. The condition can be detected at 18 months or younger, but a diagnosis reached at age 2 by an experienced provider is considered very reliable.

The AAP recommends screening children at 18 and 24 months or whenever a parent or health care provider has concerns. Screenings are also available through Kentucky and Indiana First Steps early intervention programs.

You can conduct your own screening using the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, Revised (M-CHAT-R) tool and share the results with your child’s pediatrician.

Screening doesn’t diagnose autism. It will single out behaviors often associated with the condition and form the basis of evaluation by a specialist.

Early signs of ASD can include:

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Little interest in other children or caretakers
  • Limited language ability — having fewer words than peers or difficulty using words to communicate
  • Getting upset by minor changes in routine

Norton Children's Autism Center

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Appointments 629-KIDS

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(502) 629-KIDS (5437)

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