Latino parents' perspectives on barriers to autism diagnosis

Acad Pediatr. May-Jun 2014;14(3):301-8. doi: 10.1016/j.acap.2013.12.004.


Objective: Latino children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) at older ages and at the point of more severe symptoms. We sought to qualitatively describe community, family, and health care system barriers to ASD diagnosis in Latino children.

Methods: Five focus groups and 4 qualitative interviews were conducted with 33 parents of Latino children previously diagnosed with an ASD. Participants described Latino community perceptions of autism and barriers they experienced during the diagnostic process. Sessions were audiorecorded and transcribed. Transcripts were coded by 2 researchers, and data were analyzed using thematic analysis.

Results: Parents reported low levels of ASD information and high levels of mental health and disability stigma in the Latino community. Parents had poor access to care as a result of poverty, limited English proficiency, and lack of empowerment to take advantage of services. Providers sometimes dismissed parents' concerns. The ASD diagnostic process itself was slow, inconvenient, confusing, and uncomfortable for the child. These factors led many parents to normalize their child's early behaviors, deny that a problem existed, and lose trust in the medical system.

Conclusions: Additional educational outreach to Latino families, destigmatization of ASD, streamlining the ASD diagnostic process, and providing additional support to Latino parents of at-risk children may decrease delays in ASD diagnosis among Latino children.

Keywords: Hispanic Americans; autism spectrum disorder; delayed diagnosis; health services accessibility; qualitative research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / diagnosis*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Delayed Diagnosis
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Hispanic or Latino*
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Male
  • Parents*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Stigma*
  • Young Adult