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Latino children on the spectrum less likely to receive specialty care

Children's Care Hospital & School Sioux Falls, MGN

Children’s Care Hospital & School Sioux Falls, MGN

Raising a child is probably one of the hardest endeavors of an individual’s life. As a parent you want to give your child the best possible life, in all aspects of it: emotional, social, educational. And as a parent, whether that’s as a single mom or dad, two parents, step-parent, grandparent raising grand kids, you do your best with what you are given.

Parents will say, that even in the best of family circumstances, raising a well-adjusted, healthy child is challenging. Now, imagine raising a child who has a disability. Though the experience is likely one of the most satisfying of a parent’s life, it is clear that the challenges can easily be multiplied.

At the beginning of this week, the journal Pediatrics published a study which revealed significant differences in the care received by Black and Latino children with ASD compared to that received by Caucasian children. Autism Spectrum Disorders, ASD, are a group of neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by impairments in communication, social interaction and restricted behaviors, interests and activities.

Being the first study of its kind, the main objective was to find if and what differences may be in terms of race and specialty care for children with ASD; the study looked at over 3600 young participants and found significant racial and ethnic differences in the use of GI/nutrition, psychiatry/psychology and neurology care and procedures. Considering that children with ASD also have increased rates of comorbidities such as seizure and sleep disorders, anxiety and attention/hyperactivity disorders, and gastrointestinal complexities, this finding is compelling, especially for nuestros niños.

So, for a Latino child, what does this mean and how do we address it? Simply put, children of color are less likely to receive care beyond the basic standard. Our Latino communities are already afflicted by low or lack of access to health care which negatively affects early identification and intervention for children with autism. According to Special Needs Network the ideal age for diagnosis is 1 or 2 years old.

For a Latino child, with little access to health care, diagnosis may not come until the ages of 5 or 6. That’s a significant amount of time in the critical 0-5 age range. A minority child with a late diagnosis loses on 4 or 5 years of intensive therapy and treatment and furthermore exposes him to lowered educational and social skills.

In order to give our niños a more equitable chance of accessing early detection and increasing likelihood of specialty care, we must be involved and proactive. Even if you are not a parent, people in your families, your social groups, your religious groups, your colleagues are having children. And it’s within these groups that are within your reach that you can be a resource and advocate for children of color.


By Being Latino Contributor Claudia Sermeño. Claudia is a first generation Salvadoran-American educator living in Orange County, CA. She can be followed @ClaudiaSermeno.

About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

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