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Autism and Minorities: March 20, 2012

Regla Cazanas sensed something wasn’t right with her toddler.

“She definitely has speech problems where she’s not communicating as she should.”

So she followed her pediatrician’s advice and had 18-month-old Amanie screened for autism.

“I want to get whatever help she needs, you know, I want to get it now while she’s still small,” says Cazanas.

Amanie is fortunate. New studies show minority children are less likely to be evaluated when they’re young and therefore have more delayed language, communications and gross motor skills.

“There is a delayed diagnosis, the children are older when they make that diagnosis in a lot of minority groups ad we don’t know why that is, maybe it’s an access to care issue, maybe it’s a cultural issue,” says Sherri Campbell, a nurse practitioner with Lee Memorial Health System.

What troubles experts is the missed opportunity. Early identification and intervention plays a huge role in better outcomes.

“We can get in there early enough and start those therapies and sometimes they don’t even look like the same child as far as their autistic features,” says Campbell.

So Lee Memorial Health System is casting a wide net with their free monthly autism screenings.

“We try to have materials available for people from different cultures and different languages, and we do hope that all families in the area will come and have their children screened,” says Campbell.

As for Amanie, screeners believe she has a developmental delay, not autism.

“I just want her to be a normal child and if she’s not I just want to learn how to deal with whatever it is,” says Cazanas.

A sentiment that crosses the cultural divide.