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Autism Awareness In The African American Community

By Beverly Pack
Via Flickr

Autism is becoming increasingly prevalent.  1 in 88 children is diagnosed with the condition and because it is more prevalent among boys, 1 in 54 boys receive the diagnosis.

The good news is that research is increasing and there are many more treatments from which to choose.

One of the keys to successful treatment is early diagnosis. However, research also shows that African American children lag behind their Caucasian counterparts in age of diagnosis.  Frequently African Americans are not diagnosed until age 5, 6 or 7.  Reasons for the disparity may include less access to healthcare, the fact that many African Americans may not have a regular pediatrician who might recognize symptoms as they develop, and a cultural stigma about diagnosis of a mental health condition.

TouchPoint Autism Services which recently merged with Life Skills, provides comprehensive Autism services.  Three TouchPoint professionals were Don Marsh’s guests on “St. Louis on the Air” including Director of Family Services Melanie Mills, Family Navigator Ann Schad and Vice President of Marketing and Communications Kristi Mattison.

Schad discussed the traits parents might notice leading to a diagnosis of Autism.  They include concerns with verbal communication – either the lack of speech development, or ceasing to use speech at age 18 months to 2 years. 

Another concern is lack of non-verbal skills – not using gestures or eye contact and not varying facial expressions.  Frequently there are stereotypical behaviors such as hand flapping or toe walking. 

The manner of play can also be a factor.  Lining up, stacking or turning toys over rather than playing with them and not engaging in play with other children are all signals.

Schad also outlined the family navigation services offered by TouchPoint.  Families can make an appointment  to talk about their concerns and devise a plan.  They are informed of services available and possible funding sources.  Schad explained that parent training is the first place to start and TouchPoint offers a variety of parent training opportunities to fit the family’s situation.

As part of Black History Month, Life Skills/TouchPoint is offering a community education event  addressing Autism awareness in the African American Community on February 28 in the Community Room at UMSL at Grand Center.

Related Event

Life Skills Community Education Event "Autism Awareness and Understanding in the African American Community"
Thursday, February 28, 2013
6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
UMSL at Grand Center Community Room, 3651 Olive St.
(314) 567-7705
Life Skills Website

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Mary Edwards came to St. Louis Public Radio in 1974, just after finishing her Bachelor of Music degree at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She has served the station in a number of capacities over the years. From 1988-2014 she also taught an undergraduate class in radio production at Webster University. Mary was inducted into the St. Louis Media History Foundation Media Hall of Fame in April, 2017 and received the Gateway Media Literacy Partners' Charles Klotzer Media Literacy Award in 2012. Mary retired from St. Louis Public Radio in 2018, but still serves the station as a St. Louis Symphony Producer.
Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.
Don Marsh served as host of St. Louis Public Radio’s “St. Louis on the Air" from 2005 to 2019, bringing discussions of significant topics to listeners' ears at noon Monday through Friday. Don has been an active journalist for 58 years in print, radio and television. He has won 12 Regional Emmy Awards for writing, reporting, and producing. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, was inducted into the St. Louis Media Hall of Fame in 2013, and named “Media Person of the Year” by the St. Louis Press Club in 2015. He has published three books: his most recent, “Coming of Age, Liver Spots and All: A Humorous Look at the Wonders of Getting Old,” “Flash Frames: Journey of a Journeyman Journalist” and “How to be Rude (Politely).” He holds an honorary Doctor of Arts and Letters degree from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
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