World Autism Awareness Day and ASD in the Latino Community

As World Autism Awareness Day is recognized on April 2nd, Latin Biz Today looks to bring attention to some of the barriers that delay Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) diagnoses in the Latino community.

Robin Portanova, President of Stamford Education 4 Autism, shares some of her insights and experiences.

Latinos tend to be diagnosed with autism later than non-Latinos. In improving the outcome for ASD children, what potential barriers do we need to better understand to address early diagnosis of ASD?

Parents need to be informed! Unfortunately, much information on Autism Spectrum Disorder is not available to them in their native language, thus making it potentially difficult for parents to educate themselves.

Parents may be reluctant to bring up concerns about ASD as it is sometimes associated with embarrassment, rejection or even a family burden. This makes it difficult to talk about within family circles as well as bringing up concerns to health providers. How do we bring these conversations into the mainstream especially within the Latino community?

Remove the negativity!  ASD should not be viewed as something negative. Schools/Houses of Worship/Community Centers need to have workshops on accepting the autism diagnosis and how to move forward.  Family and Community support is KEY!  We always say, “It takes a village to raise our kids with ASD1”

Both from a family and/or provider standpoint, there may not be a confidence level in how to help Latinos due to cultural or language barriers. How can we prevent this from being a roadblock to identifying ASD?

This goes back to having information in their native language.  Hospitals and family practices should be the first to educate the parents, then the school.

 Access to primary care, special needs care, awareness of ASD, and health literacy are sometimes not as well known about in Latino communities. How do we help bring attention to it and provide the best resources in those communities?

Many houses of worship here are the first to steer the parents in the right direction for all of the above.

Issues such as transportation and childcare can also delay or prevent early diagnoses. How can we make sure that access to resources and tools is available to everyone?

In every community there should be a place where Latino parents can turn for support.  Transportation and childcare are an issue for everyone.   The child’s pediatrician should be the one to help educate the parents on the resources available.  Hospitals are also a good place to start.  Community and public school websites would be helpful as well.

Feel free to share a personal story of your own experience about how you and/or your family/friends have created or improved on ways to help children with ASD.

As a special education advocate, I agree that Latinos tend to be diagnosed later and I believe it’s because the families don’t always recognize the signs when kids are younger.  Schools, in turn, diagnose the issues as problem behaviors.  Early intervention is everything!  Parents need to trust their instincts and seek support from people they respect.   ASD is more well-known now than it has ever been before.

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