Autism Diagnosis Rates Rise Among Black and Latino Children

By Latinovations Staff 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said autism is being diagnosed more frequently in Black and Latino children than in white children in the U.S.

Among all U.S. 8-year-olds, 1 in 36 had autism in 2020, according to the CDC. But the rates rose faster for children of color than for white children. The new estimates suggest that about 3% of Black, Latino, and Asian children have an autism diagnosis, compared to white children with 2%.

Autism was most diagnosed in white children, usually in middle- or upper-income families with access to autism specialists. As recently as 2010, white children were 30% more likely to be diagnosed with autism than Black children and 50% more likely than Latino children.

Improved screening and autism services for all kids have contributed to the change, increasing awareness and advocacy for Black and Latino families. However, it’s still unclear whether Black and Latino children with autism are being helped as much as their white counterparts. A study published in January found colored children had less access to autism services than white children during the 2017-2018 academic year.

Autism is usually diagnosed by making judgments about a child’s behavior. For decades, children were diagnosed with autism if they had severe problems communicating or socializing and had unusual, repetitive behaviors. But around 30 years ago, the term became shorthand for milder, related conditions known as “autism spectrum disorders.”

To estimate how common autism is, the CDC focuses on 8-year-olds because that age diagnoses most cases. Autism rates have been rising for decades, and it is far more common among boys than girls. But the latest study also found, for the first time, that more than 1% of 8-year-old girls had been diagnosed with it.

The CDC recently reported on how common autism was in 4-year-olds because autism diagnoses are increasingly happening at younger ages, said Kelly Shaw, who oversees the CDC autism tracking project.

Black children with autism have historically been diagnosed later than their white peers, said Rose Donohue, a psychiatrist at Washington University. But the study of 4-year-olds found that autism was less common among white kids in 2020 than among Black, Hispanic, and Asian children.

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