A new study that highlights some alarming autism statistics in the Latino community, saying that Latino children are diagnosed with autism much later than white children. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.
After reaching out to many doctors, Jesse and Ana Mojica eventually found out their then-2-year-old son Adam was autistic.
"We went to his doctor at the time, and we expressed our concern that Adam was having trouble with eating, he wasn't smiling," Jesse Mojica says. "The doctor responded to us, 'You're a nervous father. You're a new father. Boys talk late.'"
"From when we had our initial concerns to when he was finally diagnosed was probably a period of six months," he adds. "That we could have done something even sooner with that, to this day. that always stays with us."
The Mojicas are not alone. A study published in the Pediatrics Journal finds that Latino children are typically diagnosed with autism more than two years later than white children.
"All of the research has consistently shown that Latino children are not diagnosed at the same rate as white children," says Lauren Elder, a psychologist with Autism Speaks. "There's no reason to think that's a true difference in the prevalence of autism."
Advocacy group Autism Speaks launched its "Maybe" campaign earlier this year, an effort to fight the disparity in the Latino and black communities, highlighting symptoms like lack of eye contact, talking late and repetitive play with objects.
Jesse Mojica says he believes much of the delay in diagnosis is due to cultural barriers.
"Even though Ana and I were very much on the same page, our families were not," he says. "'No, he's fine. It's OK. You're smothering him too much.'"
The latest study is one of the first to suggest the problem may lie, in part, with providers, finding that only 1 in 10 pediatricians were providing autism screenings in Spanish.
"We don't have enough free, high-quality developmental and autism screeners in other languages," Elder says. "We really need a national public health response to better serve these children."
Adam is now 14. His smile has returned. He has a solid support system, goes to school and communicates well with his little brother.
"There isn't a day that is to be wasted," Jesse Mojica says. "The journey that you thought you would have been on is probably going to be different, but it's no less glorious."
For more information visit the Autism Speaks screening page at www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/diagnosis/screen-your-child.