When some people hear the word Autism, they immediately think of it as an issue for White Americans; just as some folks may hear the word Diabetes and associate it with Black Americans.  However, there are many African-American families that are impacted by Autism Disorder or who have loved ones that fall on the Autistic spectrum… and the numbers are growing. What isn’t growing, or growing fast enough, are resources and support services.  

But in order to provide resources and support, the Black community must understand not only what Autism is, but how it directly impacts our communities.  

“Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurological disorder characterized by difficulty with communication, social skills, and sensory sensitivities. 1 in 59 children are diagnosed with autism, with boys being four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls. There is an overall gap of about 2 years between black children getting diagnosed when compared to white children. Stigma, lack of access to healthcare services, and non-English primary language are some of the potential barriers to identification of Autism in black children,” Maria Davis-Pierre, Founder of AutismInBlack.org.

Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) reports have consistently noted the disparity in identifying and diagnosing African American children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). African American Children are 30% less likely to be identified with ASD. Previous studies have shown that cultural stigma, lack of access to healthcare services due to low-income and lack of community awareness are barriers to identification of children with ASD.

So what does this mean?

This means that African American children may not be getting the services they need to reach their full potential.

What can I do?

First, you need to know the signs.  The most common characteristics or signs of Autism are difficulty adapting to change, challenge in dealing with social situations or understanding social cues, delayed learning and in some cases inability to effectively communicate or express emotions.

Secondly, get past your own misconceptions or fears and seek out the help of organizations within your community that provide resources such as AutismInBlack.org or your local therapists that provide effective coping strategies and tools to use to aid your loved one in overcoming some of those challenges connected with Autism.  

Lastly, get involved and support your local community agencies in raising awareness about this underserved population such as S.M.I.L.E. Psychology and Associates.  

S.M.I.L.E. Psychology and Associates, is hosting their 1st Annual Mental Health Awareness Fundraising Gala on Saturday, September 28, 2019 at The Event Hall located in Largo, FL @ 8 p.m. S.M.I.L.E. is actively working to create solutions and solve the problems that our Autism Spectrum Disorder Communities are facing by raising funds to not only support organizations like AutismInBlack.org, but also to provide free therapy vouchers for those in need who cannot afford the cost or don’t have insurance.  But again, it takes community to acknowledge the disparity and to bring about change. Help your community provide the platform of hope, healing and happiness.

Please email info@smilepsychology.com for more information and sponsorship opportunities.

Carleah East

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