Study: Latino Children Not Always Receiving Timely ASD, General Developmental, and Autism Screenings

lationo_lacking_autism_asd_screeningsA new study has found that the Spanish-speaking population may not be receiving adequate screening for general developmental and autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).

Just one out of 10 pediatricians offers screening tests in Spanish, based on a survey of 267 California pediatricians. It seems that just a few of the pediatricians surveyed offered Spanish developmental and ASD screenings, which are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), according to Reuters Health.

“It may be that the pediatricians don’t think that the screening tools are reliable for children who speak Spanish,” Dr. Katharine Zuckerman, the study’s lead author from Oregon Health and Science University’s Department of Pediatrics in Portland, told Reuters Health.

Prior research revealed that Latino children with ASD were diagnosed about two and a-half years later than non-Latino Caucasian children diagnosed with autism, according to researchers writing in the journal Pediatrics. The reason for the diagnostic delays remains unclear, according to Reuters Health. “We know that early identification is good for kids and if we can identify them early, we can connect them with the appropriate resources and they do better,” Zuckerman said.

About one I every 88 children is diagnosed with ASD; the AAP recommends that every child undergo developmental delay screenings at the ages of nine, 19, and 24 or 30 months of age and autism screening at 18 and 24 months of age, according to Reuters Health.

For this study, Zuckerman and her colleagues mailed surveys to 500 California pediatricians between August 2011 and March 2012. Of the 500 pediatricians, 267 responded; 81 percent indicated that they offered some developmental screening and 29 percent said they offered screening in Spanish, according to Reuters Health. One in 10 offered ASD and developmental screening in Spanish. Meanwhile, most pediatricians, even pediatricians with a Latino population base exceeding 25 percent, indicated that they were challenged in recognizing the symptoms of ASD in their Spanish speaking pediatric patients, which means that most pediatric Latino children are not being properly screened for ASDs and developmental issues.

Respondents also expressed concerns about access to specialists, as well as communications and cultural barriers, and indicated that Latino parents were not as knowledgeable about autism than non-Latino, Caucasian parents. Zuckerman told Reuters Health that improved clarity about what parents know about ASDs is needed. “I think it’s a basic health equality issue that we should be offering (Latino patients) the same care as everyone regardless of the languages they speak,” Zuckerman said.

ASDs include not only autism, but also Asperger’s syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified, and involve issues with social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors. ADHD is a neurobiological development disorder that is generally characterized with hyperactivity and some attentional problems, with behaviors typically occurring together and presenting themselves before the age of seven. The National Institutes of Health (NIMH) describes ADHD as involving difficulty staying focused, paying attention, and controlling behavior, and with hyper- or over-activity.

It is a pretty well accepted understanding that the earlier the intervention, the better the likelihood of improving some of the child’s core autism and ASD issues, which means that these delays in diagnoses are increasing the children’s challenges regarding socialization and academics, to name just two.

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