Black, Latino Kids with Autism More Likely Than Whites to Lose Motor Skills

By Julianne Hing May 09, 2014

After a seemingly age-appropriate development, some young children with autism lose their motor, language and social skills. That kind of vanishing of skills is called developmental regression, and according to a study presented this week at the Pediatric Academic Societies conference, black and Latino children are more likely to experience that drop-off. 

More than a quarter–27 percent–of 1,353 preschool U.S. and Canadian children with autism surveyed experience developmental regression, according to researchers. Yet black children’s parents were twice as likely to report drop-off than white children’s parents. Latino kids were 1.5 times more likely than white children to experience regression, which can include losing the ability to make eye contact with their parents, or the ability to walk and talk. The disparity remained even when controlling for a child’s insurance status or their parental education levels. The study is called, "Racial Differences in Developmental Regression in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders."

Autism is complicated by myriad racial disparities. Research has found that black and Latino children are less likely than their white peers to be diagnosed with autism, and that when they are identified, black, Latino and Asian-American kids are less likely than their white peers to receive an early diagnosis.

"Lost skills are very difficult to recover," the study’s lead author, Adiaha I. A. Spinks-Franklin, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said in a statement. "Our research shows there is one more important factor that contributes to the developmental outcomes of African-American and Hispanic children with autism."

(h/t SCPR)