Dr. Rebecca Landa, director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, 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.
Landa and colleagues examined development in 84 toddlers with autism spectrum disorders at an average 26-28 months of age using three standardized instruments that evaluate child development. Children were evaluated by their caregivers using the Communication and Symbolic Behavior Scales Developmental Caregiver Questionnaire and by research clinicians using the Mullen Scales of Early Learning and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-Generic.
"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," Landa said in a statement. "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."
The study was published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.