Exploring Autism Disparities Among Latina Girls: A Collective Case Study

Daniela Moreira

Authors:  Daniela Moreira, Amber Angell

Faculty Mentor: Amber Angell

College:  College of Public Health and Health Professions

Abstract

There is increasing evidence of ethnic and gender disparities in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) identification and receipt of services. Compared to White males, Latino children and girls are both more likely to receive a delayed diagnosis and less likely to receive high-quality services. Little is known, however, about Latina girls with ASD, including how their ‘pathway to a diagnosis’ compares to non-Latina White girls. To address this gap, this collective case study draws upon interviews with four families from two larger qualitative studies investigating ASD disparities. The purpose of this study is to compare the autism diagnosis and services experiences of three Latino families and one non-Latino White family of girls with ASD. Two researchers coded seven interviews using thematic and narrative analysis. We identified three themes: 1) The Latino cases involved extended family members as both barriers and facilitators to the ASD experience, while the non-Latino case had little extended family involvement; 2) The Latino cases involved a tension between specialized ASD knowledge and culturally-influenced stigma around disability; 3) All cases suggest a female ASD phenotype that differs from the traditional ASD presentation. We conclude with recommendations for improving support for Latino families with girls with ASD.

Poster Pitch

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Poster

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Emily McHugh
Emily McHugh (@guest_1378)
1 year ago

Daniela, your presentation was excellent and your topic is extremely interesting. Your discussion of the cultural impact on feelings surrounding an ASD diagnosis in families especially interested me. I am an aspiring Speech Language Pathologist with intentions to focus on the ASD population, so this topic is very relevant to my field as well. Excellent job!

Daniela Moreira
Daniela Moreira (@guest_2526)
Reply to  Emily McHugh
1 year ago

Thank you Emily! I am hoping to become an occupational therapist so this was also relevant to my future career. Best of luck with your future goals!

Alison Barnard
Alison Barnard (@guest_2490)
1 year ago

Nice job on your poster! I was wondering if each of the four families were of the similar socioeconomic statuses and if not, how that might affect results.

Daniela Moreira
Daniela Moreira (@guest_3816)
Reply to  Alison Barnard
1 year ago

Hello Alison! For our study we did not ask participants about their income and SES status, but it did happen that , at least for the Latino families, they were similar based on city median incomes. I do think that can have an effect on services and resources due to health disparities among people from lower SES levels. Great question!

Alison Barnard
Alison Barnard (@guest_3918)
Reply to  Daniela Moreira
1 year ago

Thanks!

Daniela Moreira
Daniela Moreira (@guest_2672)
1 year ago

Here is a link to a zoom meeting in case anyone would like to interact that way. https://ufl.zoom.us/j/195767643

I will be on from 3pm-4pm and will also be available to answer questions through these comments.

Hannah Gracy
Hannah Gracy (@guest_4806)
1 year ago

Hi Daniela! Great job, I thought your poster and presentation were both incredibly interesting! Can you explain a bit more about how your findings supported other research about a distinct female presentation of ASD? I was actually reading an article on ASD in girls the other day and wanted to hear your perspective, thanks!

Daniela Moreira
Daniela Moreira (@guest_5426)
Reply to  Hannah Gracy
1 year ago

Hi Hannah!
Of course! There is a growing body of literature that supports a distinct autism presentation among girls, referred to as a female phenotype. Girls with autism have been found to demonstrate fewer social impairments and stronger motivations for social interactions than boys do. Literature also supports the ability of females to camouflage, or mask, their ASD characteristics in order to better fit their social settings. It’s important to note that it is not definitive whether there truly is a distinct female ASD phenotype, but evidence in this area is growing!

Daniela Moreira
Daniela Moreira (@guest_5822)
Reply to  Hannah Gracy
1 year ago

Hi Hannah
Of course! While the existence of a distinct female phenotype is not definitive, growing research is increasingly supporting this idea. Current literature supports the idea that females with autism demonstrate fewer social impairments and stronger motivations for social interaction than males with autism. In my research, two of the girls with autism were very social, which led parents, and or health care providers to question their autism diagnosis being that social impairments is commonly associated with an autism diagnosis. I recommend reading papers from Allely and Hull which provide excellent information on this topic.
Thanks!

Daniela Moreira
Daniela Moreira (@guest_5846)
Reply to  Hannah Gracy
1 year ago

In my research, two of the girls with autism were very social, which led parents, and or health care providers to question their autism diagnosis being that social impairments is commonly associated with an autism diagnosis. I recommend reading papers from Allely and Hull which provide excellent information on this topic.
Thanks!

Ambreen Imran
Ambreen Imran (@guest_5930)
1 year ago

Daniela, this was a really interesting study! As a Psychology major and Health Disparities minor, your research speaks to many issues that I want to study further in my college career and beyond. I was wondering about the distinct female phenotype of ASD you mentioned and how that presents itself in females? How did your study lead you to conclude this phenotype exists? Further, how can healthcare practitioners practice more sensitivity towards populations like young Latinas? Again, great work!

Daniela Moreira
Daniela Moreira (@guest_6428)
Reply to  Ambreen Imran
1 year ago

Hi Ambreen,
Thank you for your comment!

While the existence of a distinct female phenotype is not yet definitive, growing research is increasingly supporting this idea. Current literature supports the idea that females with autism demonstrate fewer social impairments and stronger motivations for social interactions than males with autism. In my research, two of the girls with autism were very social, which led parents, and or health care providers to question their autism diagnosis being that social impairments is commonly associated with an autism diagnosis. I think this points to the need of modifying autism diagnostics test to better fit the wide range of symptoms/characteristics. The current diagnostics may be a reason as to why girls continue to be under-identified with autism because they do not always fit the traditional presentation. As to how health care practitioners can provide better quality of care for Latinas, I think it is important to be mindful of cultural differences that may impact a person’s health care experience. Literature supports a lack of autism knowledge as well as autism acceptance among Latino communities. So practitioners should be aware of these issues and actively work to break down the barriers.

Thanks!

Drew Fletcher
Drew Fletcher (@guest_6832)
1 year ago

Hi Daniela! Awesome presentation and poster! I was wondering whether you believe Latina girls with ASD may present ASD characteristics differently than non-Latina white girls with ASD, and if so, do you believe it’s possible for cultural factors to play a role regarding this potential different expression in characteristics?

Daniela Moreira
Daniela Moreira (@guest_7100)
Reply to  Drew Fletcher
1 year ago

Hi Drew!

Great question. I do not believe that Latina girls with ASD present differently than non-Latina white girls with ASD. However, I do believe that the services and resources they receive can vary due to health care disparities among different ethnic groups. The difference in services and resources can then lead to a negative impact on interventions and future outcomes. These are my thoughts, but there is a need for future research to better understand this area.

Thanks