Objective: Past research indicates that non-Hispanic black (NHB) children are less likely than non-Hispanic white (NHW) children to have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis, even if they seem to meet criteria for the disorder. This study examined differences in community identification of ASDs between NHB and NHW children identified by a population-based surveillance system.
Methods: Participants were identified as an ASD surveillance case by the Metropolitan Atlanta Developmental Disabilities Surveillance Program in surveillance years 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006. Health and education records were abstracted and reviewed to determine ASD surveillance case status; community identification was defined by a documented ASD diagnosis, special education eligibility, and behaviors noted in records. Children were placed in 1 of 5 mutually exclusive categories on the basis of ASD specificity.
Results: Total ASD prevalence was higher for NHW than NHB children, but NHB children were more likely than NHW children to have autistic disorder and autism eligibility at a public school documented in records. NHB children were less likely than NHW children to have pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified and Asperger's disorder documented in records, even after controlling for socioeconomic status. NHB children were more likely than NHW children to have co-occurring intellectual disability.
Conclusion: NHB children were less likely than NHW children to have been identified with less severe ASDs, which might have prevented or delayed intervention services that would have catered to their needs. This study illustrates the need for continued professional education, particularly concerning milder ASDs in minority groups.