by Carlos T. Carter
What can we do to increase early identification and referrals for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the Black community?
As a society, we need to recognize that Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects every race and ethnic group regardless of socio-economic status. However, we do know there are clear racial disparities when it comes to healthcare, and it is disheartening to learn that our Black children are being diagnosed much later than their White counterparts.
Parents play a crucial role in early detection, so it’s important they understand ASD signs, some of which can manifest when a child is as young as six months. That’s why helping to educate parents about ASD and equipping them with the right set of tools is key—both before, during, and after pregnancy. The earlier ASD is diagnosed, the better chance parents have of reducing the effects of autism.
The Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh has been a partner of the Pledge to Protect campaign for the last three years. One of the most important messages we try to convey to parents is that it’s critical to stay on top of well-child visits. At these visits, parents can voice their concerns and tell their pediatrician the signs they are seeing.
Parents and caregivers need to be vocal advocates for their children’s health starting at birth. As a community, we can help by having information available where parents live—at schools, libraries, barber shops, hair salons, and community centers. We can all do our part.
What are ways that we can reduce the stigma and isolation experienced by autistic individuals and their families?
One way to reduce stigma is to get people talking about ASD and recognizing that many young people with autism can thrive. It’s important to let people know ASD is nothing to be ashamed of and that parents/caregivers of children with ASD are not alone.
Let’s launch social media campaigns directed to the Black Community where people with autism can tell their success stories. Let’s help families understand and take advantage of resources and support that’s available to everyone as early as possible.
The more we humanize and tell the stories of Black people living and thriving with autism, the less stigma there will be. It also goes back to educating parents and caregivers about the disorder. The more people are educated about ASD, the better prepared they will be to help their children.
(Carlos T. Carter is President & CEO, Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh)