5 MYTHS ABOUT AUTISM

As information about autism continues to spread, so do the myths on autism. There are many myths about autism; these myths are harmful, misleading and stigmatizing. It is important to demystify these myths to encourage parents of autistic children to seek treatment and eliminate stigma associated with autism.

1. Vaccines Cause Autism

There are a lot of rumors which suggest that vaccine overload weakens a child’s immune system which eventually leads to developmental abilities such as Autism. However, extensive research shows no relationship between vaccines and autism. Autism is a group of disorders that has many causes such as genetics, developmental and environmental factors. Many people associate autism with bad parenting and psychosis.

2. Autistic People Lack Empathy and Affection

Some people believe that autistic black girls have little or no emotions. Interestingly, people with autism can feel all emotions like their peers with no developmental disabilities. The only challenge would be expressing their emotions and the inability to make relationships and connections. Black autistic girls may also struggle to understand other people’s emotions towards them. Research shows that therapy helps autistic people to be in touch with their emotions hence the ability to create and maintain relationships.

3. Autism can be cured

There is no scientific evidence which indicates that black autistic girls can be cured. Although there is no cure for autism, there are various intervention strategies that can be used to manage symptoms in an autistic girl. Some of these strategies include speech therapy, behavior therapy and occupational therapy. These therapies are given based on the severity of autism.

4. Autistic People are Antisocial

Black girls with ASD may be considered as antisocial because of they interact differently unlike their peers with no developmental disabilities. Sometimes, people with ASD prefer segregating themselves due to sensory sensitivities or stigma. This may often be mistaken as being anti-social. Autistic people have the ability to interact with others and participate in activities such as sports, music and theatre. Girls with ASD have a problem with reading and understanding non-verbal cues such as body language, tone and facial expressions.

5. All People with Autism are Alike

Some people believe that all autistic people behave the same. This is not true and cannot be proven scientifically. The diagnosis, severity and treatment of autism vary from one person to another. Autistic girls may show different symptoms from autistic boys. Children with autism on the other hand, may behave differently from adults with autism. Treatment options are also different based on the severity and financial capabilities of parents with autistic girls.

HOW AUTISM AFFECTS BLACK GIRLS

Effect of Race on Diagnosis

Today, it is widely known that there exist inequalities in our society along racial and ethnic lines particularly in areas such as education and household income. This inequality predictably affects the diagnosis and treatment of autism among children from Black communities. Research conducted in the past shows that Black children are more likely than white children to experience undiagnosed autism, meaning that they almost certainly have their autism diagnosed later.

Autistic Girls are Often Overlooked

Today, more boys than girls are diagnosed on the autism spectrum. This means that while race already puts Black girls in a disadvantaged position, gender also makes diagnosis difficult. Often, researchers blame genetic differences for autistic girls who are simply missed. This is to say that even when a girl presents symptoms of autism, she can be overlooked. One reason for this is that girls, and especially Black girls, do not fit the autistic “model.” The classic autism diagnosis model that relies on deficits in communication and social skills, according to some researchers, has turned out to be a male model. As such, while a girl may fit this model, it is often thought that girls naturally have a quieter presentation. This stereotype may, therefore, get in the way of recognizing challenges with social skills.

Social and Emotional Effects on the Girls

It could be particularly challenging for a Black girl to live with autism especially when frustrations may cause one to be labeled an “angry black woman.” Such racial stereotypes can make the life for a black girl with autism extremely difficult. The inability to socialize easily could make one appear inflexible or naïve. Being assertive, on the other hand, could lead to one being perceived as aggressive. Black autistic girls may miss out on opportunities in school, at work and in the community. Learning may also be hindered due to lack of finances to access special schools for autistic children.

5 WAYS SCHOOLS CAN SUPPORT AUTISTIC BLACK GIRLS

Autistic children behave differently from their peers. This difference is exhibited in the way they speak, think and behave. Parents and teachers always ask themselves how they can support autistic black girls in school. Here are some tips for teachers and parents on how to support black autistic girls in school. 

1. Pairing the Autistic Child

In a normal school setting, autistic children are stigmatized due to their behaviors. Autistic children therefore, have a high chance of having social anxiety than children with other developmental disabilities. Teacher should be intentional when pairing up autistic children to help them feel included in school activities.

2. Keeping Them Active

It is essential to keep autistic black girls active by enrolling them in sports, art and music. Teachers and parents should identify a child’s interest and help them nurture their talents and expend physical energy hence enhancing concentration for other tasks. In the current world, black autistic girls stand a chance to do better than normal girls when they are all rounded. 

3. Create a Bond and a Relationship

Since autistic children struggle to express themselves verbally, it is crucial for teachers to initiate activities such as playing. An autistic black girls should feel needed and wanted to become active. Another way of developing a bond with an autistic girl is by immersing oneself in her interests. For instance, if a girl likes to play with dolls, a teacher can center his activities towards playing with dolls to keep the child active and interested. Being proud of your child’s achievements is also essential in creating a strong bond with them.

4. Create a Schedule

A little structure and schedules, makes life predictable. The same applies when dealing with autistic black girls. They need to know what to anticipate every day and how to prepare themselves. For instance, an autistic black girl should predict play time, sleep time and feeding time. A schedule should be placed where the child can see it. Scheduling creates order and prevents breakdowns and stress. Researchers argue that autistic children like routines and interrupting this routine might throw them off. 

5. Multi-stakeholder Collaboration

Autistic girls require medical and non-medical attention when in school. Teachers, students, parents and therapists should work together to help them excel in all areas. For example, during a break down, teachers should know how to handle an autistic child without causing panic among other students. Parents and caregivers should also be on their toes and ready to show up in school in case of an emergency. 

BARRIERS OF AUTISM

Autism affects people across the globe and is not limited to one’s age, race or family background. Over the past few decades, researchers have dedicated their efforts and resources to identify barriers to autism services. They are:

1. Community and Cultural Factors

African-American children are less likely to receive diagnosis at an early age hence missing out on early interventions that affects a child’s development. Due to cultural factors in black communities, a child who exhibits unusual and disruptive behaviors is considered mannerless and a sign of bad parenting.

2. Financial Barriers

Medical costs and non-medical costs of children living with ASD are higher than those of children living with other developmental disabilities. Children with ASD require special attention in terms of school childcare settings and transportation arrangements. Black communities struggling to eke out a living may struggle to access these basic services for children living with ASD.

3. Systemic Barriers

These include lack of coordination between agencies and failure by pediatricians to refer children with ASD for further treatment. Some pediatricians are reluctant to refer children showing less severe symptoms for diagnosis and early treatment. Lack of access to pediatricians especially among children living in child protective services. Black mothers also describe the process of diagnosis and treatment as stressful and lengthy. 

4. Insurance

Treating children living with ASD is expensive. National data indicate that there is high usage by children with ASD compared to children living with other developmental disorders. High costs of treatment cover psychiatric services and prescription medication. Lack of insurance among some low-income black families hinders access to diagnosis and treatment of autism. 

5. Stigmatization

Parents of autism spectrum disorder children face isolation, humiliation and exclusion. Children with ASD may show aggression therefore, making it difficult for the parents to handle such children. Moreover, autistic children are isolated by other children due to lack of awareness and knowledge on autism.