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The Double Discrimination Facing Black Children With Autism

When you hear the word ‘Autism’ what do you think? For many, descriptions such as ‘unsociable’, ‘weird’, ‘genius’, ‘non-verbal’ or ‘eccentric’ may spring to mind. The National Autistic Society (NAS) defines Autism as a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them. Yet, because of the complexity and range of symptoms (which differ from person to person), Autism is now often referred to as Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). 

The word ‘Autism’ is widely known yet it is not widely understood. Work still needs to be done to dispel common misconceptions, break down stereotypes and provide families with the right resources and support both pre- and post-ASD diagnosis. Autism affects children of every race, ethnic group, and socioeconomic status; however, research has shown that families within the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community experience double discrimination in the autism diagnosis process, due to their ethnicity and disability.

In 2014 The National Autistic Society (NAS) produced the Diverse Perspective Report which reported the views of 130 Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) participants in Britain. The report explored the barriers parents and carers of children with autism from BAME communities face in accessing services and support. There are currently around 11,000 BME (Black, Minority Ethnic) children with autism in England and Wales but there is a distinct lack of research and very few studies that have been conducted in Britain to highlight the racial differences in autism.