Mark Whitehead 03 March 2023

Autistic children face discrimination in care system

Autistic children face discrimination in care system image
Image: Africa Studio/

Marginalised families with autistic children face serious problems in the health, care, and education systems, according to new research.

A report by the University of Birmingham says there is widespread discrimination, biases, and lack of resources available for families in Britain.

Challenges include getting a diagnosis, accessing educational support, challenging illegal exclusions and getting support for carers.

The report by Dr Prithvi Perepa, Professor Karen Guldberg and Dr Simon Wallace, at the university’s Autism Centre for Education and Research, looked at families belonging to minority ethnic communities whose first language is not English.

It also looked at families from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and autistic children in care.

The latest Government plans set out changes and investment in the system to help children and families better access the support they need but makes no mention of marginalised families, the report’s authors say.

They highlight the problems faced by parents and families obtaining a diagnosis for their child, which can be made even worse for those from marginalised backgrounds or communities.

Dr Perepa said: ‘Getting an initial diagnosis for an autistic child is a universal struggle, as outlined in the Government’s recent SEND and AP Improvement Plan, but this becomes even harder when faced with institutional bias and racism, as well as language barriers.

‘Data from the Department for Education shows that 2.2% of pupils in England have been identified with autism as their primary need, but within that there is a huge over representation of white British and black British children.

‘Those from Pakistani, Indian and “white other” communities are under-represented in these figures.

‘This is due to a host of issues, but a complex and seemingly hostile system and insufficient understanding of the impact of marginalisation amongst professionals are certainly the biggest, especially if communicating in English is difficult.’

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