Time and time again, studies have shown that early diagnosis is key when it comes to treating children with autism. The sooner autism is diagnosed, the sooner children can begin receiving the physical, mental and emotional support needed to manage the condition and minimize their symptoms. But a new study shows that minority children tend to be diagnosed later than white children, and researchers are scrambling to understand why.


It's possible to detect autism as early as 14 months of age. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids be screened for the condition by 18 months old. Yet most kids in the U.S. aren't diagnosed until they're about 4.5 years old, according to government statistics. New research compiled by experts at the Kennedy Krieger Institute has found that white kids may be diagnosed with autism as much as a year and a half earlier than black and other minority children.


Why the disparity? Researchers speculate that cultural differences may play a role. The relationship between parents and their child's doctors may also affect a parent's decision to share or not share information about their kids. For instance, minority parents may worry about being judged by a white doctor if they think their kids are not hitting milestones by a certain age. There is also the simple fact that minority families may have less access to health care than their white counterparts. Interestingly, the research also found that black children with autism were more likely than whites to get the wrong diagnosis during their first visit with a specialist. 


The study of 84 toddlers with autism was published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.