Navigating Late Autism Diagnosis as a Woman of Color
Navigating Late Autism Diagnosis as a Woman of Color: Morgan Harper Nichols’ Journey

Morgan Harper Nichols is a Black artist, musician, and author based in Atlanta, Georgia. She is known for her inspiring poetry and art that has touched the hearts of many. It wasn’t until she aged 31 that she and her loved ones learned she had autism, ADHD, and sensory processing difficulties.

In a blog post published in 2021, Nichols revealed that she had been diagnosed with autism. Nichols’ late autism diagnosis has had a significant impact on her life. She mentioned in a recent interview with Forbes that being autistic has caused her to struggle with communication and social issues, and she often has to put in extra effort to feel like she belongs. However, she also shared that the experience of getting diagnosed has ultimately left her feeling supported and understood.

Before her diagnosis, Nichols used art as a way to communicate, connect with others, and find room to breathe in daily life. Her work is informed by her familiarity with situations as a woman of color and who is neurodivergent.

In an interview with NBC Chicago, Nichols shared that her late autism diagnosis has changed her life in many ways. She has become more aware of her needs and has learned to advocate for herself.

Nichols’ story is a reminder that autism can go undiagnosed in adults, especially in women and people of color. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), autism is diagnosed more often in boys than girls, and Black and Hispanic children are less likely to be diagnosed with autism than white children.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects people of all races and ethnicities. According to studies, children of color with autism are often diagnosed with the disorder later than their white peers, limiting their access to early intervention and effective treatment. The University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research and Epidemiology revealed in 2007 that children of color were 5.1 times more likely to be misdiagnosed with behavioral problems prior to being diagnosed with ASD. Resulting inequalities in autism prevalence between races are highlighted. Around 19% more white children than children of color receive an ASD diagnosis.

The literature for identifying disparities in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has been well-established over the past two decades. The time is now to advance health disparities research systematically and for the field to develop strategies and interventions for reducing or eliminating these disparities.

Late diagnosis of autism can also be a significant challenge for individuals and families. It can lead to missed opportunities for early intervention and support, which can substantially impact long-term outcomes. The reasons for late diagnosis are complex and multifactorial. Still, research suggests that a lack of awareness and understanding of autism among healthcare professionals and cultural and linguistic barriers may contribute to delayed diagnosis.

However, race or ethnicity isn’t related to the time between diagnosis and treatment. It is essential to address the disparities in autism diagnosis and treatment to ensure that all individuals, regardless of race or ethnicity, have access to the support and services they need. Healthcare providers, government officials, and local communities must work together on this critical topic to raise awareness, improve access to services, and reduce barriers to diagnosis and treatment.

Morgan Harper Nichols’ late autism diagnosis has significantly impacted her life, but it has also given her a better understanding of herself and her needs. Her story is a reminder that autism can go undiagnosed in adults, and there is a need for more awareness and understanding of autism in women and people of color. By working together, we can ensure that all individuals with autism receive the support and care they need to reach their full potential.

At Illinois Autism Center, we believe in raising awareness and understanding of autism in women and people of color. We are committed to providing exceptional ABA therapy services to individuals of all ages, helping them develop new skills and meet their life goals. Contact us today to learn more about how our ABA therapy services can benefit your child and family.