(Girl and holiday)

Sharp increase in Latino children identified with autism

A report released on Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) paints a stark picture concerning children and autism.

“One in 88 children are diagnosed with autism, which is a doubling of its presence,” says Mark Roithmayr, the president of Autism Speaks. “Autism has officially become an epidemic in the United States. One million children are directly affected by autism. It costs $126 billion a year and behind the statistics are real families and real children.”

While Latinos have always had a lower prevalence of autism compared to non-Hispanic whites, there is troubling data in the report as well.

In terms of the overall prevalence of austism spectrum disorders (ASDs), non-Hispanic white children had 12.0 per 1,000 children which is significantly greater than that among non-Hispanic black children (10.2 per 1,000) and Hispanic children (7.9 per 1,000.)

Nevertheless, there has been staggering growth in the identification of Latino children with ASDs.

“Since 2002 there has been a very large increase,” says Dr. Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp, the branch chief for the CDC report. “A 110 percent increase among Hispanics, a 91 percent increase in black children and a 70 percent increase among white children. This may be because Hispanic children are not being identified earlier and now there is greater recognition. When we think about what’s happening in the community it could also be issues of language and culture.”

Dr. Yeargin-Allsopp says they hope to empower Latino parents with this information and that they can find tools on the CDC website in the Act Early section, which are also available in Spanish.

“We do believe in a message of hope,” she says. “First, providers should listen to parents and our message to parents is, ‘You know your child, if you’re concerned about developmental issues, let the doctor know.’”

ADRIAN CARRASQUILLO, NBC LATINO STAFF

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