Reference Work Entry

Comprehensive Guide to Autism

pp 2455-2467

Autism in the African American Population

  • Ruby M. GourdineAffiliated withSchool of Social Work, Howard University Email author 
  • , Carl L. AlgoodAffiliated withSchool of Social Work, Howard University


There is little or no research that addresses race or ethnicity as it relates to autism. This article addresses some of the challenges that exist with African American families getting early diagnosis or correct diagnosis and thereby receiving inadequate interventions for their children. Early diagnosis is critical if a child is suspected of having autism. Research has shown that on average African Americans receive a diagnosis of one and a half to 2 years later than white children (Mandell 2002; Sell et al. Disabil Health J 5:9–17; 2012). This delay has grave consequences for treatment options and subsequent severity of symptoms. African American children are not typically included in research studies that can help differentiate if there are phenotypic characteristics that would necessitate another type of treatment course (Cuccaro et al. Am J Med Genet Part B 144B:1022–1026; 2007). Further, there may be inherent biases against certain cultures, and these biases could result in the disparate diagnosis and/or treatment for African American children and their families if they are not acknowledged and addressed when developing treatment plans (Hilton et al. J Autism Dev Discord 633–639; 2010). More attention is needed to include African American families in research and to listen to their concerns as they describe their child’s symptoms, their stresses, and acceptance of the diagnosis of autism.