Autism in the Black Community
1 year ago
Early diagnosis and awareness can help turn the tide against this disorder
Imagine a daughter who does not speak one word you can understand until she is five years old, or a son who bangs his head against the wall repeatedly, while another flaps his hands, rocks his body and screams random phrases constantly. This is the reality for many parents who have children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a group of developmental disorders that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges.
Being a mother or a father is one of the most precious gifts that we experience as humans, and watching your child develop and come into their own is an awe-inspiring privilege, one that many parents may take for granted. Here’s how it goes: You have a baby, and within the first couple of years, you watch your baby take its first steps, utter its first words, and become emotionally attached to you, saying simple phrases such as “I love you.” While these milestones may seem like normal, fundamental actions to many, developmental delay steals some of these precious moments from parents who have children with autism.
Celebrities such as Tisha Campbell-Martin, Toni Braxton and Holly Robinson Peete are dedicated to raising awareness and offering hope to those affected by ASD through hosting events, participating in documentaries such as Colored My Mind, serving as national spokespersons for organizations such as Autism Speaks, and starting foundations like the HollyRod Foundation.
These entertainers all have children who suffer from the disorder, and because of first-hand experience, they understand how critical early detection and awareness can be.
Some of us may be familiar with the term “autism,” but do we really know what autism is, what it looks like, or how much this disorder is damaging the black community?
While autism has no respect as to color or class and affects all populations equally, black children are more likely to be misdiagnosed or diagnosed late. Black children receive their diagnosis almost two years after white children, which, unfortunately, is a huge problem for the black community.
Camille Proctor, 48, knows the face of autism all too well. In 2008, she found out that her two-year-old son, Ari Joseph, was suffering from ASD, but it wasn’t the doctors who picked up on it—it was Camille. “I really tracked his milestones as he progressed from an infant to a toddler, and I noticed that there wasn’t a change when he went into what we call toddler-hood,” says Proctor. “He wasn’t pointing, and he walked really late. But, the issue with my child, like many others, was that he looked what they call ‘typical,’ so I was told that he was delayed but would catch up.”
Paying close attention to your child’s behavior, social skills and overall development is key in early detection of developmental delay. Sometimes doctors do not detect it, especially if your child appears “normal.”