According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with autism every year. Moreover, the CDC has found that white non-Hispanic kids are more likely to receive a thorough evaluation than black and Hispanic children are. While the impulse to assume that autistic children are only white males has been perpetuated by media representation, this distortion has left many other groups of people, such as females and people of color, misrepresented and lacking support and leadership.
There are many reasons why autistic girls tend to be diagnosed later in the stage or simply not diagnosed at all. Not only do girls conform more to many social norms—such as better behavior and being quiet—but also the “social skills of a girl are more nuanced,” notes Pegeen Cronin. a clinical psychologist whose work includes diagnostic evaluations. Furthermore, autistic girls of color are challenged by the fact that people of color with autism tend to be diagnosed later and are much more underrepresented in the media. Lack of media representation of autistic girls of color plays a major role in societal confusion about, and lack of support for, these young women.
The issue of underrepresentation of disabilities amongst people of color has sparked much conversation via social media, specifically through the #disabilitysowhite campaign on Twitter. Although the #disabilitysowhite community has spurred powerful conversations, like many controversial topics, this discussion has also been subject to hate speech and racial attacks. Outside the realm of social media, there has been no corporate media coverage on this issue as of March 20, 2017.
Source: Leanne Libas, “Autistic Girls of Color Missing from Media Narrative.” Women’s eNews, August 31, 2016, http://womensenews.org/2016/08/autistic-girls-of-color-missing-from-media-narrative/.
Student Researcher: Elena Chiavacci (College of Marin)
Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (College of Marin)