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Impact of Racial Stereotypes of Individuals with ASD

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

In the article “Autistic While Black: How Autism Amplifies Stereotypes,” Catina Burkett states that “part of the reason people are quick to stereotype me is that there is no research on middle-aged black women with autism.” Some of the difficulties she faces includes not being able to “code switch”, which she defines by the change of one’s voice and mannerisms to fit in with different people. Other peoples' projection of what he or she expects of someone of a particular race can be overwhelming to someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This also applies to someone of the same race. For example, she mentions that she does not seem to have the same connection with people of her own race in certain situations because her energy level does not always match up with theirs. The author voices her hope that there will be greater research on the characterization of autistic black people, which can help break down negative stereotypes.

Much of the research done on the impact of race and inequality for individuals with ASD are limited to studies done on rates of diagnoses among different minority groups. Studies suggest there are significant racial and ethnic disparities when identifying children with ASD. Racial differences in these diagnostic patterns can be due to the institutional factors, such as the prejudices held by some clinicians when interpreting symptoms. Using faulty algorithms, also known as “statistical discrimination” negatively affect the quality of attention that the clinician provides for patients (Mandell et al., 2009). Results from the same study suggest that health care professionals may be less inclined to further assess individuals from traditionally underserved minorities, which reinforces the detrimental pattern of statistical discrimination.

Like what Catina stated in her article, scholars should put greater emphasis on autism research. Research on broad topics of autism lag behind that of other medical conditions as well as psychiatric disorders (Thurm & Swedo, 2012). The article even stated that research is more focused on the etiology and treatment of autism as it has “demonstrated the most interest and promise in recent years”. Society’s awareness of the impact of racial stereotypes for individuals with ASD are often limited to personal accounts from victims of abuse or personal blogs. One way that parents can contribute to the active discussion of racism and combat the mental stress it may have on children is by teaching them about the sensitive topic in a clear, direct, and factual manner.


Burkett, Catina. “'Autistic While Black': How Autism Amplifies Stereotypes: Spectrum: Autism Research News.” Spectrum, 20 Jan. 2020,

Mandell, D. S., Wiggins, L. D., Carpenter, L. A., Daniels, J., DiGuiseppi, C., Durkin, M. S., Giarelli, E., Morrier, M. J., Nicholas, J. S., Pinto-Martin, J. A., Shattuck, P. T., Thomas, K. C., Yeargin-Allsopp, M., & Kirby, R. S. (2009). Racial/ethnic disparities in the identification of children with autism spectrum disorders. American journal of public health, 99(3), 493–498.

Thurm, A., & Swedo, S. E. (2012). The importance of autism research. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 14(3), 219–222.

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