WASHINGTON, DC (March 25, 2014) -- Testifying before a Congressional panel today, Autism Speaks' Vice President for Community Affairs Jamitha Fields, urged our nation’s leaders to do more for people affected by autism in the African American and Latino communities.
Effective tools have been developed for screening children for autism risk as early as one year, yet the average age of diagnosis is four-to-five years, Fields said, referencing data from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"The situation in some ethnic and low income communities is even more troubling," Fields said. "Multiple studies have shown that black and Latino children are under identified, diagnosed significantly later, and once diagnosed, they receive poorer quality of care."
Fields testified before a House Appropriations Committee panel weighing budget issues relating to health, human services and labor issues.
She highlighted the Early Access to Care partnership between Autism Speaks, the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics and others to raise awareness and reverse the disparities in the diagnosis and treatment of autism among Latinos and African Americans.
"Improving this unacceptable situation will take the combined efforts of public and private partners including families, healthcare professionals, educators, autism advocates in every community and leaders like all of you who can help focus public attention on issues like this," Fields said.
"The earlier children are identified, the earlier they are able to receive early intervention services," she added. "Evidence-based early intervention services have been shown to reduce the core symptoms of autism; improve IQ and daily functioning; and reduce the cost of lifelong care by two-thirds. Considering the cost of autism over the lifespan is estimated at $2.3 million, those are significant savings."
Read her full testimony here.