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Black children with autism struggle to get help

IGNORED: Chidlren with autism are suffereing because a lack of support

BLACK FAMILIES with autistic children are missing out on essential support because of language and cultural barriers, a damning report has claimed.

The study by the National Autistic Society (NAS) revealed that, while families of all ethnicities living with autism commonly face an uphill battle to access a diagnosis and support, BMEs face additional challenges to get the help they need.

The NAS spoke to around 130 parents and carers of children with autism from ethnic minority communities. The research identified issues around communication with professionals, with some families admitting they were suspicious of authorities. It also highlighted a lack of awareness in some communities where the behaviors associated with autism are sometimes seen as “unnatural” or due to a lack of discipline.

Dr Laura Cockburn, an NAS manager, said the families interviewed have “sent a clear message” that they are suffering because of the lack of support.

"If we are to improve the lives of BAME families dealing with what can initially be a devastating diagnosis, it’s vital that decision makers, service providers and faith and community groups listen to those families and work together to produce effective, culturally appropriate support.”

She added: “Autism is a lifelong condition, but with early diagnosis, improved awareness and smarter commissioning we can ease the strain felt by many families and help those with autism reach their full potential.”

Launched at the Houses of Parliament, the report has proposed a number of recommendations to the Department of Health (DH) and local government. They include funded research around the specific needs of BME communities and targeted efforts to raise awareness.

A DH spokesperson said: “We know that people with autism from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds can face difficulties in getting the help they need and that has to change.”

They added: “We identified this as an issue in Think Autism – the new update to the 2010 Adult Autism Strategy and helped the National Autistic Society to fund focus group discussions that led to this report. It will help plan our future work in this area.

“Also, local authorities will be asked how they deliver support and services for autism specifically to BME communities.”

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