Minority, Low-Income Students Less Likely To Receive Autism Diagnosis

Armen Hareyan's picture

A survey byLong Island Newsday shows that more affluent schooldistricts in Long Island classify more thanfive times as many of their students with autism as lower-income districts,which could mean that many poor, minority students might not be receiving thesame services as other students, according to advocates.

The survey compared the proportion of students with autism in all Long Island school systems with enrollments above 500students.

According to Newsday, there are more than 3,000 cases of autism onLong Island. School districts with the highestrates of autism tended to be mostly affluent and white, while districts withthe lowest rates tended to be mostly black or Hispanic and have greaterconcentrations of poverty.


Because the schools had "far less variation" in terms of overallpercentages of students with disabilities, experts believe that some minoritystudents are being incorrectly classified as having disabilities other thanautism, Newsday reports.

Part of the problem might be related to differences in perspectives on autismamong various races and ethnicities, according to Newsday. Forexample, many white parents actively seek special-education classifications fortheir children, while black and Hispanic parents tend to be "warier"of special-education programs, which historically placed many minority studentsin classes that were beneath their ability levels, Newsday reports.

In addition, a lack of access to quality health care in lower-incomeneighborhoods might result in fewer or later autism diagnoses among minoritychildren. Thomas Giannotti -- assistant superintendent for special education atCopiague school district, where 70% of students areblack or Hispanic -- said, "I really do think it's a matter of access --it's access to the appropriate medical professions, appropriate psychologistsand hospitals" (Hildebrand, Long Island Newsday,1/10).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly HealthDisparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of TheHenry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.