BOCA RATON, Fla. — When it comes to diagnosing a child with Autism a recent study found for Black children there’s often a delay. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, what’s typically a month's long process can take more than 3 years for Black children.
Crystal Walker has dedicated her life to helping children.
“I went into school counseling because I wanted to be in the schools,” Walker said.
Her son CJ inspired her.
“He was about two and I was studying to be a mental health therapist and I just noticed that there was something a little off with him,” she said.
That was 20 years ago, her suspicion was Autism, but doctors consistently said otherwise.
“They would tell me, oh he’s highly functional, he’s fine,” Walker said. “There’s nothing wrong with him.”
Then his communication skills worsened.
“They assessed him with pervasive developmental disorder,” she said.
A year later after pushing to see a specialist, Walker says her son was diagnosed with Autism.
“I’m still angry,” she said. “My husband is angry. We are just very angry about how we are treated. But luckily we had wherewithal to be able to find the answers.”
“They are going to healthcare professionals reporting these concerns,” Torica Exume said. “But then healthcare professionals are not either believing their concerns or they are disagreeing with what their parent is reporting, and it leads to multiple barriers.”
Exume is with the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at Florida Atlantic University. She’s leading a research study on how and when Black children are diagnosed with Autism.
“We do serve over 6,100 individuals with ASD, but a majority of the children we are assisting are white,” she said.
Exume said they plan to survey up to 60 participants from all backgrounds. She’s hoping this study will help provide more services for Black children with Autism.
“Letting parents know to follow your concerns or if you are seeing x, y, and z we need to do a screening so we can get you on the right track,” Exume said.