Historically, Latino children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have been under-identified, mis-identified, or identified at a later age. This has been problematic because it means that Latino children with ASD have had more difficulty accessing the services and interventions they need. Although Latino children with ASD continue to be under-identified compared to Caucasian children, the gap in diagnosis rates is narrowing. As the number of Latino children diagnosed with autism continues to rise with better and more accurate diagnosis, it is necessary to have information and supports available in Spanish.
Fortunately, there are several quality Spanish-language websites for ASD. For example, the Autism Speaks website has a wealth of information in Spanish available at this link. One extremely helpful Spanish-language resource on the Autism Speaks website is their “Manual de los 100 Días”. Similar to the English “100-Day Kit”, the Manual de los 100 Días provides valuable information for families whose child has recently received an ASD diagnosis. Families can download this booklet at no charge and can print it out if they wish. In addition to the Autism Speaks website, some other reputable websites for Spanish-speaking families include:
- Autism Society of America
- National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY)
- Manitas Por Autismo
Spanish-language classes are also becoming increasingly available to these families. For example, here at Seattle Children’s Autism Center, we recently started to offer a Spanish-language version of our “First Steps” class (“Primeros Pasos”). Similar to the English version of the class, Primeros Pasos is a 3-part series of three 90-minute weekly classes for parents and caregivers of children who have recently been diagnosed with ASD here at our clinic. The class is designed to provide information about 1) what autism is, 2) services and supports for children with autism, and 3) strategies that parents can use at home to help their child with social skills, communication and behaviors.
In addition to getting quality information to Spanish-speaking families of children with autism, it is also important to provide them with support. Many Spanish-speaking families of children with autism describe feeling isolated, especially if their extended family members do not understand autism, blame the parents for their child’s disability, or deny that the child has a disability. Fortunately, more and more support groups are being created for these families. For example, locally, there is a support group for Spanish-speaking parents of children with special needs called Padres Unidos which meets monthly in Everett. For more information about this support group, visit Arc of Snohomish County website where you can download a flyer in Spanish. There is also the Family Support 360° Program through the Arc of King County, which is a program for families who have children with developmental disabilities (including autism), live in South Seattle or South King County, and identify as Latino/Hispanic, African American, Somali or Vietnamese. The Family Support 360° program helps families set and achieve goals, learn about and access services and resources, and connect with other families. For families and providers who are reading our blog from a distance, you may want to check with your local organization for individuals with developmental disabilities to see if there are any Spanish-speaking support groups being offered in your area, and request one if there is an unmet need.
With the growing population of Spanish-speakers in many parts of the U.S. including the Seattle area, and with the increasing number of children from these families receiving a diagnosis of ASD, it is especially important that we continue to expand the resources for these families so that they are supported and can access the information they need to understand their child’s strengths and challenges, and are empowered to advocate and pursue appropriate services for their children.