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HomeHealth & FitnessU.S. parents face huge disparities in access to autism care services

U.S. parents face huge disparities in access to autism care services

By Amy Norton

Health Day Reporter

MONDAY, JANUARY 30, 2023 (HealthDay News) — New research shows that in Black, Hispanic and American In many places where families live, autism services are harder to find.

It is well known that American families have racial disparities in access to autism services — from diagnosis and behavioral therapy to school and community programs.

New research highlights one reason: These services are It is even more scarce in communities where Native American families live. It also pinpoints specific geographic areas of the United States where the differences are most pronounced.

Researchers say this may help direct resources to areas of greatest need.

“It was a simple study that essentially created a map,” said senior researcher Dennis Wall, professor of pediatrics at Stanford University. “But it’s a good start.”

Autism is a disorder of brain development that impairs communication and social skills to varying degrees. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it affects approximately 1 in 44 children in the United States.

There are many ways to help children with autism, including targeting certain behaviors or speech and language skills therapy, and special education provided by schools.

Wall said the sooner young children are diagnosed and the sooner families can access these services, the better.

However, the study found that minority children with autism were less likely to receive such services than their white counterparts.

Exactly how geography—or where people live—fits in is unclear.

So, in their study, Wall and his team pooled data on autism services nationwide and looked at the prevalence of these resources in smaller geographic areas – Each geographic area contains one or more counties, with a population “core” centered on an area.

Tha covers more than 530,000 children aged 5 to 18 diagnosed with autism, according to government statistics. Children with autism receive fewer services than white children. Meanwhile, Asian children have the most opportunities.

Wall says there are some differences depending on where the child lives. For example, in larger urban areas, only Hispanic children are underserved compared to white children; in smaller “small urban” areas, both Hispanic and Black children are underserved.

The researchers were also able to create a map showing where clusters of autism services in the U.S. tend to be clustered, and where they are scarce. In general, scarcity tends to correlate closely with the racial and ethnic makeup of the region.

For example, in the Rio Grande-Rome area of ​​Texas, nearly all children with autism are Hispanic. The number of autism services per child in the region is 10 times lower than the national average.

This study draws on one reason for racial and ethnic disparities Sandy Magani, a professor of autism and neurodevelopmental disorders at the University of Texas at Austin Sandy Magaña, Autism Services.

However, geography is only one factor. The study looked at access — not whether families received or did not receive autism services.

This may further depend on whether they have health insurance or general financial resources, both Magana and Wall said. For Hispanic families, language barriers, knowledge of available services (especially for immigrant families) and discrimination can also play a role, Magaña noted.

Vijay Vasudevan is Director of Data Science and Evaluation Research at the nonprofit Autism Speaks. Part of the solution could be “telemedicine” services, he said.

“Since the start of the pandemic, telehealth services have become more common and accessible to families, providing services to those who may live in “resource deserts” (e.g., rural or minority community) have greater access to services,” Vasudevan said.

Autism Speaks has developed a number of “virtual tools,” he said, including screening questionnaires for signs of autism in young children and skills training for parents and other caregivers plan.

Wall agrees that telehealth services “could be of great help.”

Magaña points to other solutions , such as encouraging autism service providers to “set up shop” in underserved areas of the country and ensuring that autism services are covered by every state’s Medicaid program.

“Empowering minority families to serve their children is another important approach at the community and policy level,” Magana said. “If someone is urging policy makers to pay attention, they are more likely to listen.”

Findings were published online Jan. 23 at JAMA Network is open.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more information on autism services.

Sources: Dennis Wall, PhD, Professor, Pediatrics, Biomedical Data Science, Psychiatry, and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA; Sandy Magaña, PhD, MSW, Professor of Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities, Steve Hicks School of Social Work, The University of Texas at Austin; Vijay Vasudevan, Ph.D., Director of Data Science and Evaluation Research, Autism Voices, Princeton, NJ; JAMA Network Open,

January 23, 2023, Online



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