Aims and Objectives:
To examine racial and ethnic differences in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Specifically, the authors wanted to understand differences in behavioral problems, sleep disturbances, and medication use.
We analyzed data from 2,576 children in the Autism Treatment Network (ATN) dataset. These children were all diagnosed with ASD and were between 6 and 18 years. We created models that predicted the odds of behavior problems, sleep problems, and medication use based on race and ethnicity of the child. These models took into account the effect of age, parental education, and type of ASD diagnosis.
No racial or ethnic differences in behavioral challenges, conduct problems, or sleep disturbances were found. Black children had a lower odds of problem behaviors than White children. Asian children had a lower odds of hyperactivity than White children. As a group, children from racial and ethnic minorities had a lower odds of problem behaviors and conduct problems compared to White children. Latinx children had lower odds of taking medication for behavioral challenges, problem behaviors, hyperactivity, and conduct problems. Asian children had a lower odds of medication use for behavioral challenges, total problem behaviors, and hyperactivity. Black children had lower odds for medication use for problem behaviors only. As a group, children from racial and ethnic minorities had lower odds for medication use for behavioral challenges, problem behaviors, hyperactivity, and conduct problems, but not for sleep disturbances.
White children are more likely to receive psychotropic medication compared to children from racial and ethnic minority groups. We found no such differences for sleep challenges. This suggests that they are more consistently identified. They are also more equitably treated than other behavioral problems associated with ASD.