Improving autism diagnosis and treatment among minorities - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Improving autism diagnosis and treatment among minorities

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - Jonathan Jackson was diagnosed with autism before his third birthday.

"He had no language," said his mom, Candace Jackson. "Now, he has a full vocabulary and friends and social skills."

Jackson credits her son's success to an early diagnosis and early intervention, but all too often children, especially minority children, are misdiagnosed.  "They're diagnosed anywhere from a year and a half to two years behind the general population," said Georgia Backus, the Director of the Rich Center for Autism. "Those two years are critical in their lives."

That's why the Rich Center is using a $95,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control to create an outreach program in the tri-county area. The goal is to raise awareness about autism among minority communities.

"The more we empower the parent, the greater likelihood that the child will get an appropriate diagnosis," Backus said.

With the grant, the Rich Center has already reached out to dozens of local minority based organizations trying to break through barriers that have been created because of cultural differences.

"To have a disability, there seems to be an unspoken frowning on it," said Jackson. "As if there aren't enough hurdles to jump in the minority community, now you have this added thing, but you can not focus on that. You have to just be a warrior, an advocate for your child. To do nothing is catastrophic."

Signs of autism include avoiding eye contact, playing alone, and repeating actions, words, or phrases.

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