Autism and the economic divide

A Newsday article looks at why affluent school districts “classify more than five times as many of their students with autism as districts at the opposite end of the economic spectrum.”

The Newsday survey drew on state data from school districts whose enrollments were more than 500.

Advocates who have compiled similar data voice concern that many poor, minority youngsters might not be getting the same extensive, state-mandated services available to those identified as autistic…

Medical experts blame the problem not so much on schools as on a lack of quality health care in low-income neighborhoods. Research shows toddlers in poor families who aren’t taken on regular visits to pediatricians are less likely to have their autism diagnosed when it first appears — usually, before age 3.

This news is disturbing. Early treatment is vital for children with autism, and it pains me to hear of children falling through the cracks.

At Easter Seals Peoria-Bloomington, we screen all children regardless of income. We team with daycare centers, health departments, school districts, and social service agencies in our area to get the word out.

April Leopold, the supervisor of screening here at Easter Seals Peoria-Bloomington, describes it this way:

“We go out into the community where kids are. We then make referrals and linkages for families to the state’s Early Intervention Programs, local school district programs, community programs and services.

We found that we have to go where the children are in order to catch them.”

A basic rule for treating autism is the earlier the intervention, the better. I’m pleased we screen children here no matter what their income level — I just wish this was happening more often in other parts of the country.

Preschool children with autism need early intervention programs like ours to help them learn skills they’ll need to be successful in school. And in life.

Read Erin Roger’s biography.


Comments may not reflect Easterseals' policies or positions.

Please read our community guidelines when posting comments.

  1. Terry Blackwell Says:

    The above data is disturbing, but not surprising. Working in the south Bronx since the 1980’s with children who have developmental delays, the data is clear. Children who come from families with limited resources, fare worse than those families with both the time, education and resources (read money) to advocate effectively. While NY State and NY City (and adjoining counties)are to be apllauded for the outstanding job they do in providing services to children with Autism (compared with my home state of NJ for example, where Early Intervention is relegated to a miniscule budget, with absolutely no quality assurance oversight under the “Seniors” administration of the health department) – there are striking disparities in what percentage of children access services, from county to county – with the more affluent counties often providing a wider array of services to more children, simlpy because parents know they are available and are able to advocate for access to same.

    The long term cost of not providing best practices services to children with Autism through programs like Early Intervention was calculated by Dr. Gina Green and her associates a few years back. They came up with a number, something a bit more than $1,000,000 per child who did not get early assistance by the time they were 50. The costs that are more difficult to calculate, but no less real, are stress on families, school districts and communities as a whole. You can bet they are as much if not more than Dr. Green’s projections.

Leave a Reply