Barriers to Diagnosing Autism Among Latino Families

Latino families face serious obstacles on a daily basis and access to health care is one of them


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Unfortunately, there are disparities in diagnosis and treatment of autism among Latino families. Things that prevent Latino parents from seeking medical advice include lack of information about autism or concerns that speaking with medical experts may bring them legal trouble regarding their immigration status. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Latino children in comparison to white children have a ratio of 1.2 in being diagnosed with autism. Read on to learn about the factors that may help explain why Latino children are diagnosed with autism at a later age in life than non-Latino children in the United States.


Health Literacy


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As the Latino population continues to grow in the United States, language becomes an increasingly important barrier to health care. According to several studies across the country, pediatricians say that the primary reason for low diagnosis rates of autism among Latinos is due to the confusion when they read the screening questionnaire. As a Latino parent, you want to speak up and tell your doctor if you’re feeling pain or notice weird patterns with your body. It’s important to exchange this kind of information and verbal questionnaires are a great place to start. A study from Georgetown University in Washington D.C., found that asking Latino parents screening questions orally instead of in writing helped flag more children for autism. Another great addition to our health care system is the option for a translator. Everyone is entitled to language assistance, so don’t be afraid to ask the patient navigator at your local clinic for help.


Cultural Barriers

Home remedies

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Culture can impact how one’s health is understood and accepted in different communities. Cultural myths in the Latino community regarding autism can deter parents from seeking help and information regarding autism might be confusing for some people.  A majority of Latinos prefer to use home remedies for illnesses and would rather reach out to a curandero instead of a medical professional. Religion is known to play a huge part in the Latino community and relying on faith is also another factor. Many Latinos are reluctant to share their beliefs with their healthcare provider so having medical professionals with religious understanding would help facilitate conversations.


Immigration Issues


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Older Latinos who migrated to the United States from other countries often speak little to no English. According to several studies, immigrant parents have limited knowledge about autism in comparison to white parents. About 16 percent of Latino parents are also afraid to seek medical attention because of legal issues, specifically revolving around immigration status. This is a major barrier as a safety concern that weighs more heavily on them than other issues.


More Likely to Attend Preschool at a Later Age


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According to Beatriz Orr, the clinical manager of Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center, attending preschool at a later age may contribute to the lower diagnosis rate of autism among Latinos. She told Cronkite News, “Hispanic children are likely to attend preschool later than children of other ethnicities, which means they have later exposure to teachers, who often are the first to suspect a child has an autism spectrum disorder.”


Access to Medical Care

Medical care

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Health and healthcare go hand in hand. Lack of access to healthcare leads to poor health, which makes healthcare more expensive and makes people less likely to go see a doctor for fear of the cost. Although the United States offers the Affordable Care Act, which narrows racial gaps in access to healthcare, Latinos are still nearly three times more likely to be uninsured than non-Latino whites.


Socioeconomic Status of Latino Parents

Immigrant worker

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Latinos are much more likely than non-Latinos to work in agriculture, construction, food services, and other low-wage occupations. The low income average among Latinos is a major obstacle to receiving adequate and timely care. Low-income families are less likely to afford the out-of-pocket costs, even if they have healthcare coverage and they are less likely to follow up with specialists due to the higher costs.

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