Autism Health-Awareness Months

April Health: Autism Awareness

Every April, the world comes together to recognize Autism Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness, understanding, and acceptance of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, amidst the discussions and initiatives, it’s crucial to acknowledge the intersectionality within the autism community, particularly focusing on the experiences of Black individuals with autism. A 2023 study suggests that 3% of Blacks are diagnosed with autism vs their white counterparts (2%). While autism does not discriminate based on race or ethnicity, the challenges and disparities faced by Black people with autism often remain overlooked or underrepresented. Until recently, the Black community has never received proper diagnosis. Hence why our community may have a higher rate of autism than once expected.

Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects individuals in various ways, impacting communication skills, behavior, and sensory processing. However, the experiences of individuals with autism are not uniform; they are shaped by intersecting identities, including race, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status. Black individuals with autism face unique challenges and barriers due to the continual effects of racism, ableism, and systemic inequalities. Here are a few challenges faced by Black individuals with autism:

  1. Diagnosis Disparities: Research indicates significant disparities in the diagnosis and identification of autism among Black children. Studies have shown that Black children are often diagnosed later than their white counterparts, leading to delayed access to crucial interventions and support services. Factors such as lack of access to healthcare, cultural biases, and diagnostic overshadowing contribute to these disparities. As such, many undiagnosed or misdiagnosed Black children are left behind and deemed to have behavioral or mental illness.
  2. Limited Access to Resources: Black communities often face systemic barriers that limit access to resources and support services for individuals with autism. These barriers include financial constraints, lack of culturally competent services, and geographical disparities in healthcare and educational opportunities. As a result, many Black individuals with autism and their families struggle to access appropriate interventions, therapies, and educational support.
  3. Intersectional Stigma: Black individuals with autism may face intersectional stigma, stemming from both their race and disability. Due to lack of education and awareness coupled with lack of resources, negative stereotypes and misconceptions about autism within Black communities, coupled with the stigma surrounding mental health and developmental disorders, can contribute to social isolation, discrimination, and a lack of acceptance.

Stay Involved

Despite the challenges, Black individuals with autism possess unique strengths, talents, and perspectives that enrich the autism community. It’s essential to create platforms and opportunities for Black voices to be heard, valued, and represented in autism advocacy efforts. Here are some ways to empower and support Black individuals with autism:

  1. Culturally Competent Services: Increase access to culturally competent diagnostic, therapeutic, and support services that recognize and address the unique needs and experiences of Black individuals with autism. This includes training healthcare professionals and educators to recognize and mitigate biases in assessment and intervention practices.
  2. Community Outreach and Education: Raise awareness and promote understanding of autism within Black communities through culturally relevant educational initiatives, outreach programs, and support networks. Provide resources and information that address the intersectional challenges faced by Black individuals with autism and their families.
  3. Advocacy and Policy Reform: Advocate for policies and initiatives that address systemic inequalities and disparities in healthcare, education, and social services, particularly those affecting marginalized communities. Amplify the voices of Black advocates and activists within the autism community to drive meaningful change and inclusion.
  4. Celebrating Diversity and Representation: Celebrate the diversity of experiences and identities within the autism community by amplifying the voices and stories of Black individuals with autism. Highlight their achievements, talents, and contributions in various fields, including arts, sciences, and advocacy.

As we recognize Autism Awareness Month, let us recommit ourselves to promoting inclusivity, equity, and empowerment within the autism community. By centering the experiences and voices of Black individuals with autism, we can work towards a more just, inclusive, and supportive society for all. Together, let us raise awareness, foster understanding, and celebrate the diversity of neurodiversity within our community.

For additional reading:

  1. Autism Speaks
  2. National Autism Association
  3. Autism Society
  4. Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN)
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Autism Spectrum Disorder

About the author

Stephen Earley Jordan II

Stephen Earley Jordan is the lead writer, editor and founder of Elevate Black Health. He has 25+ years in the public health and pharmaceutical marketing industry. He has worked on various public health campaigns for various organizations, including New York City Department of Health. Campaigns include: smoking cessation, healthy children, trans fat, HIV/AIDS, Flu Vaccines, Safe homes, and more. Jordan has worked with multicultural divisions to ensure all literature was translated into six additional languages for the specific targeted demographics. Jordan has also spent time in the pharmaceutical marketing industry, and worked on various marketing campaigns for oncology, rheumatoid arthritis, probiotics, medical devices, facial fillers, thyroid- and dry-eye diseases, and numerous rare diseases. He has assisted in the production of print and digital pieces alike.

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