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Cultural Diversity And Its Effect On Autism Diagnosis

| Hgrant |

Most people tend to think about their world and their experiences through an ethno-centric lens, viewing other people and cultural practices through our own cultural lens. When it comes to autism diagnosis, there is a very heavy focus on western ideals of what might be considered a social deficit. This isn’t on purpose, but it stems from the fact that much of the autism research in the world is being done by western researchers. Still, in the United States, a lack of eye contact and an avid choice to avoid eye contact is seen as a hallmark sign of autism, but in South Africa, a child will likely avoid looking into the eyes of an adult. Western markers are often used as benchmarks for diagnosis, but cultural diversity is extremely important to consider for researchers, clinicians and even parents when deciding to seek an autism diagnosis.

Different Perspectives On Autism

When more than 100 countries throughout the world have resource centers and support groups for individuals and families with autism, it’s clear that the condition is understood across cultural boundaries. However, what constitutes a marker that is strong enough to seek an autism diagnosis over differs in other regions of the world. Children in many asian cultures are expected to show deference and respect to their elders, which can be hard to master for children with autism. While we might look to eye contact or finger pointing here in the US, clinicians in China might take notice of a lack of metered respect for elders as a sign of autism.

Part of observing cultural diversity while actively working to intervene early with treatment involves researching and measuring how often behaviors occur in members of a population and establishing social and cultural norms. It’s also important to be aware of the cultural diversity that exists within one population. Even here in the United States, a Native or Hispanic child might show different markers that require an autism diagnosis as opposed to a Caucasian or African American neighbor, and then the markers can diversify if you live in the country or the city.

Is There Such A Thing As “Neurotypical”

There is a concept that some researchers and advocates have researched and theorized about to a large extent called “neurotypical” or to function without displaying the signs of autism or any other intellectual disorder. In the most simple and yet reductionist way, this term simply means you behave in a way that is considered “normal” by cultural standards. However, if you’re observing cultural diversity, something that might indicate the need to seek an autism diagnosis by western standards is completely commonplace in a different region. Who are we to enforce our cultural paradigms on others. Therefore, “neurotypical” as a term functions nicely as a comparison for researchers to set parameters to create an accurate autism diagnosis, but we should be observant of cultural diversity in our own circles and try to consider different perspectives before we formulate opinions.

Knowing When To Test

The deep concerns that affect parents and families of kids with autism tend to transcend any cultural boundaries and cross into the realm of universal truth. Parents are concerned with their child’s health, development, social limitations, motor functions and future independence and these things are not bound to culture. If it seems that an autism diagnosis is appropriate, it’s a good idea to speak to a medical professional. Your doctor will be able to refer you to a professional that’s both aware of the cultural diversity concerns of your family and provide an accurate autism diagnosis.

When you’re ready, you can also reach out to Lexington Services. We are ready to walk you through the initial steps of an autism diagnosis and to get you linked up with the services you need for your loved one and your family. Call 480-900-1009 for more information.