Understanding the Lower Rate of Autism in Hispanic Children In Texas

A recent study published to the American Journal of Public Health set out to determine why autism rates were lower in Hispanic school children in Texas than white children. Ultimately, the study confirmed that Hispanic children were less likely to be diagnosed with Autism, but the reasoning behind this was not determined.

The study seems to indicate that an increased prevalence of health care professionals in an area, as well as increases in economic standings might be responsible for higher levels of autism diagnosis in white children. However, these factors did not seem to play as big of a role in Hispanic Children.

The Findings

Using data collected by the Texas public school, system, it was found that a 10% increase in Hispanic students resulted in an 11% decrease in the number of children diagnosed with autism. However, there was a corresponding 2% increase in children with learning disabilities and an 8% increase in children diagnosed with intellectual disabilities.

Similarly, for each 10% increase in white children, there was a corresponding 9% increase in children diagnosed with Autism. However, there was an 11% decrease in children diagnosed with intellectual disabilities and a 2% decrease in children diagnosed with learning disabilities.

When the two data from the two groups was merged, the trend remained that an increase in the number of Hispanic children resulted in a decrease in the number of diagnosed cases of autism. This remained despite adjusting for economic and health care factors.

Further, increased ratios of health care providers, economic status, and urban environments were found to be related to increases in the number of autism cases diagnosed in white children, while lower incomes and rural environments were related to increases in diagnoses of learning disabilities.

What This Means

Even after the findings had been adjusted for economic factors, the data still supported findings that an increase in Hispanic children was related to a decrease in the number of diagnosed cases of autism. For white children, differences can be explained by socioeconomic and the prevalence of health care facilities, but this does not hold true for Hispanics.

Factors that may explain this could be difficulty with communication with health care professionals and other differences between how health care is provided to Hispanics, such as applied biases. Also, genetics and cultural differences could also play a role.

It is important to note that traditionally the Hispanic population of Texas has a higher ratio of Mexicans, so these findings might not be characteristic of all Hispanic Cultures.

Source: American Journal of Public Health; Feb2010, Vol. 100 Issue 2, p270-272, 3p

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