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.