Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 48, Issue 2, pp 333–340 | Cite as

Language Barriers Impact Access to Services for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Helaine G. St. Amant
  • Sheree M. Schrager
  • Carolina Peña-Ricardo
  • Marian E. Williams
  • Douglas L. Vanderbilt
Original Paper


Racial and ethnic disparities in accessing health care have been described in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In a retrospective chart review of 152 children with ASD, children of parents whose primary language was English were significantly more likely to have both social skills and communication goals within their individualized education plan (IEP) compared to children of parents whose primary language was not English. Additionally, children of primary English speakers received significantly more hours of direct services from their state disability program. After controlling for demographic covariates, findings suggest that language barriers may negatively affect parents’ abilities to access health care services for their child with ASD. Acculturation factors must therefore be considered when analyzing disparities in autism.


Autism spectrum disorder Health care disparities Individualized education plan Language barriers Access to services 



The authors would like to thank Eugene Nguyen for his assistance with data analysis.


This study was funded by a Summer Research Fellowship awarded to the first author by the School of Medicine at the authors’ home institution.

Author Contributions

HS participated in data interpretation and drafted the manuscript. SS participated in the design of the study, supervised statistical analyses, and helped to draft the manuscript. CP conceived of the study, participated in its design and conducted data collection. MW participated in interpretation of data and helped to draft the manuscript. DV participated in the design and coordination of the study and helped to draft the manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

For this type of study formal consent is not required. All study procedures were approved by the Institutional Review Board at the authors’ home institution.

Research Involving Human and Animal Participants

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Keck School of Medicine of USCLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Division of Hospital MedicineChildren’s Hospital Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Division of General PediatricsChildren’s Hospital Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  4. 4.Children’s Hospital Los AngelesUSC University Center for Excellence in Developmental DisabilitiesLos AngelesUSA
  5. 5.Southern California Permanente Medical Group, Kaiser Permanente West Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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