Conceptualization of Autism in the Latino Community and its Relationship with Early Diagnosis

Katharine E. Zuckerman, Brianna Sinche, Martiza Cobian, Marlene Cervantes, Angie P Mejia, Thomas Becker, Christina Nicolaidis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Objective: Early identification of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has been linked to improved long-term developmental outcomes. However, Latino children are diagnosed later than white non-Latino children. We aimed to qualitatively assess the understanding and conceptualization of ASD in the Latino community to understand potential community barriers to early diagnosis.

Methods: We conducted 5 focus groups and 4 qualitative interviews with 30 parents of typically developing Latino children in Oregon. Participants were asked structured questions concerning video vignettes that follow a Latina mother from the time she begins to worry about her 3-year-old son's behaviors to the time he receives an ASD diagnosis. Focus groups and interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and independently coded. Coded data were analyzed using thematic analysis.

Results: Many Latino families in the study had not heard of ASD or had little information about it. Families sometimes assumed that ASD red flags were normal or could be attributed to family dysfunction. Families also had concerns about provider communication and access to language services. Having a child with a developmental delay was associated with embarrassment, rejection, and family burden, making it difficult for parents to raise developmental concerns with providers.

Conclusions: Pediatric providers should not assume that Latino parents have heard of ASD or know its symptoms. Providers should be aware that parents may be reluctant to mention concerns because of cultural factors. The health care system needs to improve resources for Latino parents with limited English proficiency. Policies should encourage the use of developmental screening in primary care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)522-533
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 10 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.


  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Delayed diagnosis
  • Health services accessibility
  • Hispanic Americans


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