A study of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder
found racial differences in which children accessed specialist doctors, including gastroenterologists
, and in the types of specialty tests they received.
Of the 3,615 children with autism spectrum disorder, 1,557 had subspecialty care visits. Among African-American children, 29.8 percent had subspecialty care visits, whereas 36.9 percent of white children had such visits. The most striking differences were in use of gastroenterology and nutrition services; 13.8 percent of white children accessed gastroenterology services, compared to 9 percent of African-American children and 9.9 percent of Hispanic children. African-American and Hispanic children also received fewer gastroenterology tests including endoscopy and colonoscopy. Hispanic children had lower use of neurologic studies, sleep studies and neuropsychiatric tests.
The authors conclude there may be several possible explanations, including differences in children’s medical conditions, differences in how often doctors refer their patients to specialists, and differences in how often patients follow-through on those appointments. According to the study authors, developing clearer practice guidelines based on evidence of the benefit of specific evaluations and procedures may help.