Autism Prevalence Across Cultures

 

For my Frontera class, I was interested in writing about something that both connected to the class, but also connected to my major. Throughout my research, I discovered that that people of Hispanic origin are less likely to be diagnosed with ASD than Caucasian Americans. I found this intriguing, and decided to focus my project on the research that has already been done on this difference, and then explore the possible socioeconomic, genetic, and cultural causes that could be contributing to it.

Throughout my research, I found evidence showing that not only is the rate of autism lower amongst Hispanic people than it is amongst Caucasian Americans, but that Hispanic youth with US-born parents have a higher rate of autism than Hispanic youth with foreign-born parents. Now, one would automatically assume that this difference is probably because the families that have just recently immigrated to the US have a lower socioeconomic status and less access to healthcare, but one of the studies that I looked at accounted for that fact and the Hispanic families still ended up having a lower rate of autism.

This led me to believe that this difference is cultural, and that its not that there are less people who have autism in Hispanic populations, but actually that the idea of disability may be different. In the end, I came to the conclusion that culturally there are different influences (strong family and community support, different ideas of disability, etc…) that lead to people with High Functioning Autism to not be seen as having a disability, but just as somewhat different.

One of the studies that I looked at that could support this idea found that Hispanic families with an autistic child often experienced less family burden than non-Hispanic Caucasian families. I believe this could be due to the increased support structure that is the cultural norm. Due to the fact that there is an increased support system, I think that people with High Functioning Autism would be less likely to be seen as having something “wrong” with them, and instead would just be accepted as they are.

Another study that I found interviewed Mexican-American mothers who had children diagnosed with language disabilities. In the interviews, a majority of the mothers said that they did not believe their child had a disability. While this study was not specifically about ASD, the ideology is the same. The mothers did not see a disability in their children.

Overall, I think that the cultural differences and expectations of Mexican immigrants/Mexican Americans versus Caucasian Americans is what the leading cause is for the difference in the prevalence of ASD. This isn’t to rule out the fact that socioeconomic status does not play some role, because I am sure it does, but I believe that the cultural influences are the leading cause in this instance.

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