Identifying racial and ethnic differences in perceived need for treatment among families of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) will improve understanding of disparities in care seeking. We described racial and ethnic differences in perceived need for services that children with ASD and their families frequently use.


We conducted bivariate analyses of racial and ethnic categories and perceived need for 6 common services used by children with ASD as found in the 2005 to 2006 (n = 2123) and the 2009 to 2010 (n = 3055) National Survey of Children With Special Health Care Needs data sets. Multivariate logistic regressions within concatenated data sets were conducted to examine associations between racial and ethnic category and perceived service needs while controlling for predisposing, enabling, and child factors.


Compared with caregivers of white non-Hispanic children with ASD, caregivers of Hispanic children reported less need for prescription medications in adjusted multivariate analyses. Caregivers of black non-Hispanic children with ASD reported less need for prescription medications and for child and family mental health services than caregivers of white non-Hispanic children. Both English-speaking Hispanic caregivers and black non-Hispanic caregivers reported greater need for occupational, speech, and physical therapy than white non-Hispanic caregivers. No racial or ethnic differences were found in perceived need for specialty medical care or respite care.


Caregivers of children with ASD from different racial and ethnic backgrounds may differentially perceive need for different types of care. Their perceptions may in turn affect how they prioritize and seek care, independent of their child’s specific needs.

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