Children of color tend to be diagnosed with autism later in life and less often.
Growing up as an autistic child in Kingston, New York was very different from that of a neurotypical child. The good news was that I have received the one thing needed to succeed: EARLY INTERVENTION. Also, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by children with special needs who were from all different backgrounds. Because of this, I had no idea that children of color tend to get diagnosed less often or later on down the road.
Unfortunately, I was oblivious of the changes that would come my way when my family and I left New York for North Carolina in May of 2004.
Once I moved to Fayetteville, North Carolina in 2004, I noticed a complete change. The high school I transferred to was predominantly African American (my ethnicity). Unfortunately, America’s schools spend less money on African American students. Due to the low funds, my new school had no means of intervention to make learning easier except for extended exam time. There was no speech pathologist, the main source of intervention I’ve had over the years. There was a class for students with special needs, but the school work would not have been a challenge for me whatsoever. In all honesty, it’s them that I was feeling for for not having a speech pathologist available at the school because they were there longer. As for me, I was placed in regular classes. Basically, I was left to fend for myself.
I have never felt so alone before. I am referring to internal loneliness. Being surrounded by a bunch of neurotypical kids during lunch, class, and after school was fun, but no one had a clue of what was going on with me internally. In turn, anxiety built up within me, resulting in stage fright and uncontrollable trembling. No one in my classes were neurodiverse that I knew of. I kept searching for signs of autism in my classmates in hopes of reducing the sense of loneliness I was feeling. I did not notice any; no struggles with eyes contact, no repetitive behavior, nothing. Meanwhile, just because I did not see signs, does not mean there were no autistic students 🙂
Okay, so you may be wondering- What does this have to do with the fact you stated?
Looking back on my experiences in high school, the fact I have stated makes sense to me. With schools offering less money to African American students, it’s no surprise that the chances of African American children getting a diagnosis on time or at all are much less.
Knowing this pushes me to believe that the percentage of African American individuals on the spectrum are much higher then reported. I understand that flak can come my way, but I can handle that. I feel compelled to speak out about this issue because my people are often overlooked within the autism community. That saddens me deeply.