BALTIMORE, Md. The first prospective study of ethnic differences in the symptoms of autism in toddlers shows that children from a minority background have more delayed language, communication and gross motor skills than Caucasian children with the disorder. Researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute concluded that subtle developmental delays may be going unaddressed in minority toddlers until more severe symptoms develop.
While the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) does not differ across racial and ethnic groups, some studies have shown that children of African American, Hispanic and Asian descent are less likely to receive an early diagnosis of autism than Caucasian children. In this new study, Dr. Rebecca Landa, director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at Kennedy Krieger Institute, investigated whether the symptoms of autism in toddlers play a role in this disparity in diagnosis as part of her work to improve access, education and outreach to minority communities.
"We found the toddlers in the minority group were significantly further behind than the non-minority group in development of language and motor skills and showed more severe autism symptoms in their communication abilities," says Landa, whose study included children and parents of African American, Asian and Hispanic descent. "It's really troubling when we look at these data alongside diagnosis statistics because they suggest that children in need of early detection and intervention are not getting it." (To read an online discussion with Dr. Landa about this work, visit http://www.kennedykrieger.org/landa-discussion-022112.)
The study, published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (Epub ahead of print), examined development in 84 toddlers with ASD at an average 26-28 months of age using three standardized instruments that evaluate child development. Ch
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Kennedy Krieger Institute