Cultural Diversity Plays a Role in ASD Diagnosing and Treatment

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Intro: Welcome back to another episode on “what the AUTISM?!” This podcast is for anyone who is struggling with understanding what autism is and how we can better empower our autism community through research proven methods. In each episode, I will be sharing with you ground-breaking research and how the diagnosis of autism can often be misunderstood. If you are a new listener to our podcast, I highly recommend you start from episode 1 to catch you up to speed on various terminology and concepts! Now let’s get started…

The years of 2020 and 2021 has been quite an eventual time. There have been so many global and cultural issues that will for sure be written in our history books in the years to come. As I was thinking about the next topic of discussion for our podcast, I wanted to talk about an area that many of our families may not realize is a large factor in our children’s lives. The topic of cultural differences. I don’t want to talk about the politics of all these different issues, but I do want to bring to light that your cultural identity as parents does greatly impact the way your child’s ASD diagnosis and treatment services come into play.

It’s a no-brainer that there has been a vast amount of research conducted on ASD, covering the realm of biomedicine, treatment, healthcare policies; however, an area that needs more research coverage is studying ASD from the perspective of minorities, especially for the AAPI community. There’s been quite a bit of research observing and analyzing the Black and Hispanic community, but I believe that the AAPI community has received very minimal amount of investigation and analysis when it comes to autism. While working with quite a bit of Asian families, and coming from an Asian heritage myself, I’ve come to see that there are some cultural differences in perspectives that can affect the diagnosing and treating of ASD within our children.

Coming from an Asian heritage I think there are still this level of stigma that comes with children being diagnosed with learning disorders, such as Autism. There is definitely a feeling of failure and shame on the mothers’ end. Fortunately, many Asian countries are starting to realize the growing prevalence of Autism and related disorders; however, I think there’s still quite a bit of shame and embarrassment that comes with this diagnosis for many Asian families today. I think a lot of these mixed emotions along with denial is often times what results in some children being diagnosed at a much later age, but for our Asian American listeners out there, if you suspect that your child may be showing any signs of delayed learning, please make sure you have your child evaluated by a psychologist. With now 1 in 54 children being diagnosed with Autism, this is not a individual issue that needs to be faced with shame and guilt, this is a global issue that needs to be continuously addressed through research and health care interventions. The sooner you can get your child diagnosed, the quicker your son/daughter can get the support they need!

Another area that I want to talk about is what services may look like for your family and your child. When you place your child through various therapy services whether it’s for speech, behaviors, or gross motor concerns, please don’t think this is a “the therapist knows best and will ‘fix’ my child.” GET INVOLVED! Ask questions! Get the training you need to better understand the treatment that’s being provided. Regardless of what treatment your child receives, the purpose of this treatment is for it to be ongoing 24/7 whether the therapist is present or not. This means that you need to be fully informed and trained on what you can do to best support your child when they’re not in therapy sessions.

If your child is enrolled in school, your treatment providers NEED to be in collaboration with your child’s school teacher. We need to have an ongoing healthy collaboration of modified work and modified exams. Growing up in an Asian household, my academics has always been my number one priority. This meant that my homework assignments needed to be nothing short of perfect and my weekends were filled with nothing but studying and preparing for upcoming tests...and I think this is a pretty consistent routine across majority of Asian households, but one thing I want to emphasize is that there needs to be flexibility with children that are diagnosed with ASD. Your child’s ability to appropriately express their emotions, understanding social cues, and knowing how to communicate their wants and needs with their friends/families/teachers is going to have to take priority over a homework assignment. I’ve seen countless amount of Asian families come into my clinic with the attitude that their child’s multiplication and division skills were far more important than their child being able to engage in age-appropriate conversations with peers. And in order for us to see success in our children, we’re going to have to closely evaluate our top priorities in our children.

Regardless of whether you’re from an Asian heritage or not, I think today’s topic could still be very relevant. Whether you’re an educator, a parent, or a fellow community member, it’s important to understand that there are cultural perspectives and tendencies that play a significant role in the diagnosing and treating of a child with autism. For our parents out there, the chaos and the mixed emotions of becoming a parent to a child with autism can be the loudest voice. For some, it may be the embarrassment or the frustration of raising a child that may be “different.” Regardless, I hope that your child finding ways to navigate and communicate with this world becomes your top priority. Seek for help if you haven’t already done so; there are plenty of professionals out there ready to help your family get started.

Ending: Today’s episode is coming from just 1 perspective and experience. If you’d like to share a story or something that you learned as a teacher, as a parent, or even as an individual with autism, I’d love to hear them. You can always connect with me via email at whattheautismpodcast@gmail.com or on our Facebook page/Instagram @whattheautism. But this concludes another episode here at “What the Autism?!” We upload a new episode on your favorite podcast platform every Wednesday. Please note that this podcast has been created to discuss my personal experiences and opinions and is not a means of medical or psychological recommendations. But if you enjoyed this podcast, please make sure to follow and subscribe to our podcast channel, and I’ll see you in episode 20.

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