Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, is defined as a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior (Autism Spectrum Disorder). Autism is known as a spectrum of disorders as there is not a vast variety when it comes to the types of symptoms experienced by the individuals affected. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, this developmental disorder occurs in all ethnic, racial, and economic groups, even though some are more susceptible than others. The rate of diagnosis for individuals with Autism is increasing each year and the need for early intervention strategies is also increasing. One might ask, why do people with Autism need these early intervention strategies and are they effective across the board? With this question in mind, also remember that diversity with culture, race, and religion also play a role in terms of diagnosis and treatment as well as issues faced by the healthcare specialists when it comes to providing family support and finding effective interventions that work best for the individual alongside the family.
With the rate of diagnosis for ASD on the rise, research has found that early intervention is the key to efficiency and better chances for improvement. Researchers have stressed that the earlier the diagnosis, the better the chances for improvement. Of course, this isn’t always possible and does not mean that the chances are zero for improvement, but that the chances aren’t as great as if the individual had been diagnosed at an earlier age. As mentioned before, Autism Spectrum Disorder affects individuals of all races, cultures, religion, and backgrounds, there are certain cultures and races that are less susceptible to having symptoms of ASD such as African American, Hispanic, Pacific Islander/Asian, and American Indian compared to those of European American descent (Ticani, Travers, Boutot, 2009). Several reports have shown that many of the lower socioeconomic and minorities are underreported due their cultures having a decreased quality of health care and do not make as many health care appointments compared to those of the European decent. There is also data that shows that minority groups typically send their children to lower income/below average schools which in turn have less knowledgeable staff members that can recognize the symptoms of ASD (Krezmien, Travers, Tincani, 2013).
As one can see, cultural diversity plays a vast role in Autism and it also plays a vast role when it comes to diagnosing Autism. Diagnosing these ranges of symptoms as Autism Spectrum Disorder is a big first step when it comes to finding the right tools for effectively intervening and treating the individual. As more children are being diagnosed at an earlier age, families are struggling to find resources such as medical services, behavioral services, and financial services alongside educational services to better the individuals quality of life. Unfortunately, these services don’t often come at a cheap or fair price for all those affected, especially those in a minority group. Autism is prevalent in all races, genders, socioeconomic status, etc., and should be available to all those in need despite the diversity factors.
Professionals are challenged in this area as well as they attempt to improve individual’s quality of life but often run into families with linguistic diversities, varieties of beliefs, values, and experiences, and cannot perform their job duties as they wish due to these factors (Dyches, Wilder, Sudweeks, Obiakor, Algozzine, 2004). For example, there are medications available to assist in anxiety/mood swings, but if the family is against medicine, the practitioner cannot help in that specific way any longer as the family has refused medications that could potentially assist their child’s symptoms. Same thing goes for those who are poverty stricken and cannot afford services or medications, practitioners cannot help in that specific way. Early intervention programs and health care professionals struggle with this factor as there is a need for services but not a means for these families.
Health care professionals are trying to work around the barriers by providing services in schools and incorporating the evidence based practice interventions to better assist in meeting the needs of individuals with special needs, but according to Locke, Many schools do not have the resources, the funding, or the training to implement these programs and interventions (Locke, et. al, 2015). These interventions are very complex and require proper training and time/ money/ resources for the intervention to be implemented correctly and also to be effective. Similar to the schools not having the means to provide services, poverty stricken areas are more likely to not have the experienced professionals and therefore, families yet again, cannot receive the proper services they need (Carr ; Lord, 2016). Another barrier that might affect interventions and appropriate care, is transportation. Transportation is a necessary means when it comes to getting to and from places such as medical appointments, school appointments, work, etc. Parents working or single family households create barriers within themselves.
According to Thomas, children with ASD of minority race and ethnicity have been found to receive services at a later age and receive a different mix of services than white children (Thomas, et. al, 2009). This causes a disadvantage as early intervention is the key to success and better prognoses. Without early intervention, individuals go a longer time period with no services or help for their symptoms and can even cause a delayed diagnosis. As mentioned above, language barriers make up a vast majority of the barriers as without the proper communication, other issues can arise and the individual could potentially be misdiagnosed (Zuckerman, et. al., 2013).
Financial strain, staffing shortages, lack of appropriate resources, transportation issues, language barriers, etc. are all barriers that make interventions nearly impossible at times due to the unavailability of the necessary resources. The best thing to do when starting early intervention is to recognize and identify these barriers and work with the families with accommodations so that the proper intervention can be implemented and become effective. The intervention needs to meet the needs of the individual and the family’s needs as well despite the cultural differences, financial differences, transportation issues, etc.
Overcoming barriers includes utilizing the resources that can be provided and working within the financial means of the budget, making sure the staff is properly trained and can adapt the material to the individual’s needs. Accommodations are important when assisting others when they are seeking help and simply just don’t have the means to stretch themselves. No matter what the situation, there is always free information at health clinics and disability services. To assist in overcoming barriers within public places, there should be interpreters on staff, mentors available for school systems and individuals available to take on the individual’s case to better assist finding the best possible options available.