LEWES, Del. - At the Sussex County office of Autism Delaware, the staff helps hundreds of families per year, which are dealing with autism. And now the organization is increasing outreach efforts in the Hispanic community, in order to help an often under-served population.
"We know that there are more families out there," said Dafne Carnright, from the organization. "And there's tons of information that we'd like to share. And connect them to services that could really help."
The organization is seeking grant money, which would be used to hire a part-time translator that would work in the office. Carnright said that this position is essential, so that they can better educate the Hispanic population. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of 68 children are born with some degree of autism. However Autism Delaware said that many in the Hispanic community either receive support late, or not at all.
It's not just the Hispanic population that is seeing increased numbers of autistic children. In 2005, there were 1,660 autistic students in Delaware public schools. This compared to just 152 reported cases in 1991. This is likely due to a greater understanding of the disorder, in recent decades.
"We are busier each and every year," said Melissa Martin, of Autism Delaware. "The prevalence of autism shown to be increasing dramatically over the last 20 years."
At La Esperanza, Bryant Garcia said that a major obstacle for the Hispanic community is the language barrier.
"One of the biggest barriers is the language," said Bryant Garcia, from La Esperanza in Georgetown. "Of course if there aren't people who know how to speak Spanish, it's hard to educate the population."
Beyond that, Garcia said that there is also a cultural barrier, because many in the Hispanic community are hesitant to seek help for development disorders like this. Garcia said that many choose to keep the issue as a private, family issue instead.
"There could be a stigma," he said. "And that's something that can come across as very negative. And that's definitely a big barrier that I've seen within the Hispanic community."