Objectives: The purpose of this study is to determine if the core features of ASD are expressed differently in three racial/ethnic groups.
Methods: The sample consisted of 275 participants (African-Americans=40, Latino=22, white = 213). The participants were enrolled in a larger genetic study of ASDs. Parents completed the ADI-R to confirm the diagnosis of ASD.
Results: A MANOVA was performed to determine if the was a significant differences between African-American and Latino children’s ADI-R scores. The results indicated there were no main effects of race on any of the ADI-R Social (F(1,62)=1.348, p=0.250), Communication(F(1,62)=2.149, p=0.148), and RSB (F(1,62)=1.265, p=0.265) domains. Thus the African-American and Latino groups were collapsed into a single group (non-white). Another MANOVA was performed to determine if the was a significant differences between the non-white group and the Caucasian group. The results indicated there were no main effects of race on the ADI-R Communication and RSB domains. However, there was a significant man effect for race on the Social domain score, F(1,274)=4.621, p=0.032. To further clarify this finding, a one way ANOVA was performed on the Social domain subscale scores B1 (use of nonverbals for social regulation), B2 (peer relationships), B3 (shared enjoyment), and B4 (socio-emotional reciprocity). The ANOVA indicate that there are significant differences between the races on the B2 scores (F(1,274)=5.548, p=0.019) and the B3 scores (F(1,274)= 4.670, p=0.032). African-American and Latino parents reported their children had greater difficulty with developing peer relationships and shared enjoyment than their Caucasian counterparts.
Conclusions: The findings of this study suggest two of the core features of ASD (communication and repetitive behaviors) are manifested similarly in ethnic minority groups and Caucasians. African-American and Latino parents reported greater social deficits in their children than Caucasian parents. This finding raises an interesting question, do African-Americans and Latinos with ASD have greater social deficits than Caucasians or is there something about the culture of these two groups that places a greater importance of social interaction thus the social deficits found in ASD are rated as a greater deficit? More research in this area is needed to further examine this finding.