Autism conference targets Latino community

    A conference at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children today reached out to Hispanic families affected by autism.

    A conference at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children today reached out to Hispanic families affected by autism.

    The diagnosis of autism is on the rise among Hispanic Americans – probably due to increased awareness efforts around this developmental disorder. Dr. Renee Turchi is Medical Director of Special Programs at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. She says getting an autism diagnosis is overwhelming for all families – but poses special challenges for Spanish-speaking ones:

    Turchi: They are linked to a service and someone doesn’t speak their language, or they take their children and they can’t communicate the issues around what their children’s needs are, then they become completely disenfranchised.

    The conference was held in Spanish to overcome that obstacle. Emilio Pacheco with Vision for Equality helped organize the conference. He says people in Spanish-speaking communities are aware of what Autism is, and what the symptoms are, but he agrees with Turchi – they have trouble finding services in their native tongue:

    Pacheco: We are lost in translation, we need people who know the system, who know how to navigate the system and train the families on how to do this.

    Pacheco says the conference aimed to connect families and community stakeholders to those services. He hopes that word will spread from people who attended to others:

    Pacheco: This is a word of mouth, so parents will talk to other parents, now they have numbers where to call

    Autism experts say many Hispanic children receive an autism diagnosis later in life than their peers, and miss out on important early intervention.

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