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.

FIVE COMMON MEDICAL DISORDERS THAT ARE MORBID IN BLACK GIRLS WHO HAVE AUTISM.

1. Sleep Problems
Research indicates that children with ASD are more likely to get sleep issues unlike their typical children. Autistic girls who have sleep issues experience sleepiness during the day hence leading to behavioral issues such as moodiness and aggression. Further, lack of sleep reduces concentration and attentiveness significantly which interfers with learning.
Some of the ways of improving sleep for autistic girls include creating a sleep schedule, exercising and taking proper diets.

2. Gastrointestinal Problems
Children who have ASD are more likely to develop gastrointestinal issues compared to their peers. These issues include vomiting, diarrhea, constipation and abdominal pain. Gastrointestinal issues are common in autistic girls due to differences in the bacteria located in the gut, inflammation of the gut tract and poor diet. Autistic girls with gastrointestinal issues may be unable to express their discomfort and may show it in other ways such as crying and aggression. Parents of autistic girls should ensure the girls take balance diets and take a lot of water to facilitate digestion and prevent constipation. An examination by a general physician is also important in determining the underlying cause of the gastrointestinal issue.

3. Seizures
Seizures are more likely to occur among autistic children than in the general population. People with epilepsy are more likely to develop autism hence implying that seizures and autism often occur together. Seizures in autistic girls occur as a result of disruption of neural development. In adolescents sezuires occur due to failure of the rewiring of the neural circuit to cope with social and body changes. This explains an increase in seizures among teenage girls. Treatment options may include administration of anti-epilyptic drugs and nerve stimulation.

4. Low Muscle Tone
Low muscle tone is common in autistic children. Autistic girls have floppy muscles unlike their counterparts with no developmental disabilities. Common signs of low muscle tones include poor posture, difficulty in chewing food and poor balance while walking or running. Additionally, low muscle tone in autistic girls causes difficulty in speech development which may result in low self-esteem especially in puberty.
Some of the ways of addressing low muscle tone in black autistic girls include using tools, massages and PROMPT.

5. Sensory Sensitivities
People living with autism are either very sensitive to light, touch, smell and sound or not sensitive at all. Scientists are yet to give reasons why autistic people have sensory sensitivities. However, researchers argue that these sensitivities could be either genetic or environmental. Sensory sensitivities hinder autistic black girls from participantin in daily activities.
To address this, measures such as resting, sensory stimulation and staying away from trigger environments are recommended. 

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. 

VIRGINIA RESOURCES FOR BLACK AUTISTIC FAMILIES

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), commonly known as autism, is a developmental disability that can potentially cause substantial social, behavioral, and communication challenges.

One of the unique characteristics of this condition is that people with ASD have nothing that sets them apart from other people. Moreover, as the term ‘spectrum’ suggests, there is no one type of ASD but various subtypes that are influenced by different environmental and genetic factors.

Usually, how people with autism go about their lives ranges from highly skilled to severely challenged. For instance, some individuals are known to have high-functioning autism which manifests itself in the form of highly developed reading or writing skills. This, however, is not an official medical diagnosis. Such people may be able to live independently while others may need significant support to learn, communicate and improve their problem-solving skills.

Because the majority of children with autism will behave ‘normally’ (sit, crawl and walk on time), one may fail to notice the signs of ASD in the first few months of life. Some of the symptoms to watch out for include difficulty in interaction or understanding how other people feel or think.

Today, researchers believe that early intervention can produce positive outcomes for individuals with autism. It is, therefore, important to learn about how to identify signs of autism and gain access to interventions that can improve future outcomes. In Virginia, there are a variety of autism resources that provide these services for Black families.

DOMINION YOUTH SERVICES

Dominion Youth Services provides (DYS) personalized autism and behavior services that are designed to improve the quality of families with children experiencing behavioral challenges. The organization has a private day school where students can receive the emotional, academic and behavioral support they require. The educational services provided by DYS provide one-on-one support for students experiencing behavioral challenges. Through the organization, people with autism can access individualized training to help them function independently. DYS has locations in various parts of Virginia including Alexandria, Charlottesville, Fredericksburg, Lynchburg, Norfolk, Richmond, Roanoke, and Virginia Beach.

VCU AUTISM CENTER FOR EXCELLENCE

Another autism resource for Black families is the Virginia Commonwealth University’s Autism Center for Excellence. One of the resources available at VCU Autism Center for Excellence is a course for new parents. Others include webcasts ad seminars.

TALISMAN SUMMER CAMP 2021

we are very excited about summer camp at Talisman! Camryn will be attending for the first time next month. Talisman summer camp is catered and designed to accomodate and serve youth ages 6-22 who have a Autism and/or ADHD DIAGNOSIS. The camp also ACCOMMODATES children who have other special needs. the camp accepts youth ages 6-22. Depending on the age group/diagnosis the camp has a program catered for your childs needs. the two videos below provide insight on the camp details and location.

THE CAMP IS LOCATED AT: 64 GAP CREEK ROAD ZIRCONIA, NC 28790.

TELEPHONE NUMBER: 828.697.6313

WE ARE EXCITED AND CANT WAIT FOR OUR SUMMER SESSION. CAMRYN WILL BE ATTENDING A TWO WEEK SUMMER SESSION (SIGHT-AUTISM CATERED), SINCE THIS IS OUR FIRST TIME ATTENDING A CAMP AWAY FROM HOME. PRICES VARY FROM 1,650-4,750 DEPENDING ON THE LENGTH OF THE SUMMER SESSION YOU CHOOSE.

****IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT TALISMAN SUMMER CAMP****

  1. THE CAMP IS ACCREDITED WITH THE AMERICAN CAMP ASSOCIATION.
  2. THE CAMP OFFERS A SCHOLARSHIP. SCAN THE QR CODE BELOW FOR SCHOLARSHIP INFORMATION.
  3. MEDICAL STAFF ON CAMPUS
  4. TRAINED THERAPISTS ON CAMPUS
  5. MANAGED MEDICATIONS WHILE AT CAMP.
  6. NO ELECTRONICS ALLOWED
  7. SUMMER CAMP TUITION CAN BE BROKEN INTO PAYMENTS, DOESNT HAVE TO BE PAID ALL AT ONCE.
  8. CAMP OFFERS TOURS AND SEMINARS PRIOR TO START DATES.

QR CODE FOR TALISMAN SUMMER CAMP SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM.

I DID RESEARCH DIFFERENT AUTISM/ADHD SUMMER CAMPS AND THERE ARE A FEW OUT THERE HOWEVER THIS CAMP FIT OUR NEEDS. THIS PARTICULAR LOCATION WAS CLOSER TO US AND I FELT MORE COMFORTABLE AFTER MY RESEARCH OF THE DIFFERENT CAMPS AND PROGRAMS THAT THE CAMPS OFFERED.

HERE IS A LINK YOU CAN CLICK THAT OFFERS A LIST OF OTHER AUTISM/ADHD SUMMER CAMPS YOUR CHILD/TEEN/YOUNG ADULT CAN ATTEND!

https://www.mysummercamps.com/camps/Special_Needs_Camps/Autism/

MY HONEST REVIEW WITH PROS/CONS USING GOALLY DEVICE FOR AUTISM/ADHD

I ORIGINALLY STUMBLED ACROSS THIS DEVICE FROM AN AD I SAW POSTED ON FACEBOOK IN AN AUTISM GROUP I BELONG TO. I WOULD HAVE TO SAY IT WAS AROUND 2018-2019. THIS WAS THE FIRST TIME I HAD SEEN AN ELECTRONIC DEVICE CATERED TO YOUTH WITH AN AUTISM/ADHD DIAGNOSIS. I HAD SEEN AND HEARD OF OTHER DEVICES USED IN HOME FOR CHILDREN WITH MODERATE TO SEVERE AUTISM WHO WERE NON-VERBAL BUT NOT FOR THOSE HIGHER ON THE SPECTRUM. I WAS INTERESTED AND PURCHASED THE DEVICE. THE GOALLY DEVICE WAS NOT EXPENSIVE AND ARRIVED RATHER QUICKLY. I DID LIKE THAT THE DEVICE WAS SETUP WITH ONLY ELEMENTS RELATED TO CAMRYNS BEHAVIORS AND GOALS/TASKS FOR CAMRYN TO ENGAGE IN. NOT HAVING THE DISTRACTIONS SUCH AS NON EDUCATIONAL GAMES, INTERNET BROWSER, APP STORE, MUSIC, ETC WERE BENEFICIAL AND PUTTING THE DEVICE TO USE AS INTENDED. WE USED IT FOR A FEW WEEKS, MOSTLY FOR HER MORNING AND EVENING ROUTINES AS WELL AS THE TIMER FEATURE WHILE COMPLETING TASKS. IN MY OPINION I THOUGHT IT KEPT HER FOCUSED AND MOTIVATED TO COMPLETE THE TASK. THE DEVICE ALSO HAS A POINT/REWARD SYSTEM ON IT WHERE CAMRYN COULD EARN POINTS FOR TASKS COMPLETED AND GOOD BEHAVIOR. THIS WAS ALSO INTERESTING AND SOMETHING WE NEEDED TO IMPLEMENT INTO OUR ROUTINE.

WEEKS LATER, IT BECAME LOST IN HER CLUTTER OF THINGS. THE DEVICE STAYED WITHOUT A CHARGE AND HONESTLY I BELIEVE CAMRYN THREW IT AWAY IN ONE OF OUR “DEEP CLEAN YOUR ROOM MOMENTS”. THAT WAS THE END OF OUR FIRST “GOALLY” EXPERIENCE. A FEW MONTHS AGO, I WAS INTERESTED IN REVISITING GOALLY AND THE USE OF THE DEVICE. I FELT THAT IT COULD BE A GOOD TOOL NOW THAT CAMRYN IS OLDER, MORE MATURE AND RECEIVING ABA THERAPY IN HOME. IT TOOK ME WEEKS TO REMEMBER THE NAME OF THE PRODUCT AND COMPANY, AND EVENTUALLY I FOUND AN OLD EMAIL WITH COMMUNICATION FROM A GOALLY REPRESENTATIVE AND QUICKLY REORDERED ANOTHER GOALLY. IT WAS UNDER 30.00 AND THIS TIME THE APP CAME WITH A DIFFERENT COLORED CASE. IT ALSO HAS AN APP FOR PARENTS, OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS AND ABA THERAPISTS, DOCTORS, ETC. I THOUGHT THE UPDATES WERE NICE AND MUCH NEEDED. I DID NOT SEE MUCH DIFFERENCE IN THE DEVICE. I AM WANTING TO CONTINUE USING THE GOALLY APP, BUT NOT 100% PERCENT SURE IF THIS IS THE RIGHT DEVICE/APPLICATION FOR CAMRYN AND I. BELOW I WILL LIST MY PROS/CONS OF THE DEVICE.

PROS

  • DEVICE COST IS UNDER 30.00
  • IS A DEVICE THAT TRULY IS CATERED TO YOUTH WITH AUTISM/ADHD.
  • DEVICE COMES WITH PARENT APP THAT ALLOWS YOU TO TRACK PROGRESS, IMPLEMENT AND CHANGE GOALS/REWARDS.
  • BACKED BY MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS
  • WIFI CAPABILITIES

CONS

  • CHEAPLY BUILT AND DEVICE FEELS EASILY BREAKABLE
  • DEVICE FUNCTIONALITY IS POOR
  • MONTHLY COST OF PARENTAL APP
  • SCREEN SIZE IS FARILY SMALL
  • DEVICE RUNS SLOW BETWEEN SCREENS AND ICONS/BUTTONS
  • DOES NOT ALWAYS UPDATE GOALS/TASKS PROPERLY AND IN A TIMELY MANNER.

OVERALL, I THINK THE DEVICE IS DEFINITELY WORTH TRYING IF YOU ARE NEEDING MORE STRUCTURE IN YOUR CHILDS ROUTINE, ESTABLISHING CHORES, WORKING ON BEHAVIORAL ISSUES AND USING REWARD SYSTEM, OR JUST TO INCORPORATE IT INTO YOUR DAILY SCHEDULE. FOR CAMRYN AND I WE PERSONALLY FEEL SHE NEEDS SOMETHING THAT IS BIGGER, EASIER TO NAVIGATE AND HANDLE, AND MORE EFFECTIVE. I THINK SHE NEEDS SOMETHING THAT WILL KEEP UP WITH HER TECH SKILLS AND SHE CAN EASILY AND MORE EFFECTIVELY GO FROM SCREEN TO SCREEN, TASK TO TASK AND COMPLETE NEEDED ITEMS OR REVIEW GOALS/POINTS. WE ARE HAPPY THIS IS AVAILABLE TO FAMILIES WHO HAVE AUTISM.

-CANDICE