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Black Kids With Autism Less Likely to Receive Special Services, Study Finds

Black and Hispanic children with autism are markedly less likely than children from white families to receive specialty care for complications tied to the disorder, a new study finds.

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Boston found that the rates at which minority children accessed specialists such as gastroenterologists, neurologists and psychiatrists, as well as the tests these specialists use, ran well below those of white children.

“I was surprised not by the trends, but by how significant they were,” said study author Dr. Sarabeth Broder-Fingert, a fellow in the department of pediatrics at MassGeneral and Harvard Medical School. “Based on my own clinical experience and some of the literature that exists on this, I thought we’d probably see some differences between white and non-white children in getting specialty care . . . but some of these differences were really large, especially gastrointestinal services.”

The study is published online June 17 in the journal Pediatrics.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in 50 school-age children has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, a group of neurodevelopmental problems marked by impairments in social interaction, communication and restricted interests and behaviors. Research has indicated that children with an autism spectrum disorder have higher odds of other medical complications such as seizures, sleep disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety and digestive issues…

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