Contact: Caitlin Hurley, University News Service, hurleyc@umn.edu, 612-624-1690; Jerry Smith, Institute on Community Integration, smith495@umn.edu, 612-624-4336; University News Service, unews@umn.edu, 612-624-5551

As part of nationwide CDC report, UMN researchers find that 1 in 44 children in Hennepin and Ramsey have autism

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (3/26/2020) — A report by the Minnesota-Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (MN-ADDM) at the University of Minnesota identified 1 in 44 children (2.3 percent) as having autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in Minnesota. Focused on children who were 8 years old, the report relied on 2016 data from the health and special education records of 13,728 children in Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

As part of a nationwide network of reports funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Autism and Developmental Disability Monitoring Network (ADDM), the Minnesota-specific report shows the rate of ASD is higher than the national rate. The CDC found that, on average, 1 in 54 (1.9 percent) children was identified as having ASD in communities where prevalence was tracked by the ADDM Network nationwide. “Minnesota’s higher prevalence rates is not unexpected for a geographic area  concentrated in large metropolitan area, including both Minneapolis and St. Paul, where the is a high concentration of services and supports for children, youth and adults with ASD” said Amy Hewitt, PhD, the principal investigator for the Minnesota report.

The Minnesota report is unique in relation to other ADDM Network reports because, in addition to examining data from white, black and Hispanic populations, it also collected information on two immigrant groups with large populations in Minnesota — Somali and Hmong. The report found no significant statistical differences in prevalence rates between Somali and non-Somali children or between Hmong and other children. The prevalence finding was 1 in 34 for Somali children and 1 in 62 for Hmong children.

“The prevalence estimates look different from the overall Minnesota rate when you focus on the numbers alone, but you have to look deeper and because the sample sizes were too small to be able to tell if these differences are real or occurred by random chance, we have to be cautious and cannot say there are real differences. That said, the prevalence rates for all children are high in Minnesota” Hewitt said. “Our biggest challenge is that in order to be able to know for sure if there are differences based on ethnicity, we need to  able to expand our geographic area beyond Hennepin and Ramsey counties  to better estimate autism rates among all Minnesota children, including those of Somali and Hmong descent.”

Minnesota Autism and Developmental Disability Monitoring (MN-ADDM)  found that:

  • Consistent with previous national estimates, 8-year-old boys were about four times more likely to be identified with ASD than girls of the same age.
  • While ASD can be diagnosed as early as age two, about half of the children tested in Hennepin and Ramsey counties were not diagnosed with ASD by a community provider until 4 years and 8 months.
  • Of the children with ASD who had IQ tests in their records, 37 percent of Somali children and 31 percent of Hmong children had a co-occurring intellectual disability compared to the overall average of 25 percent. Sample sizes were too small to be able to determine if this difference was real or whether it occurred by random chance. We also found that 36% of black, non-Somali children and 45% of Hispanic children had a co-occurring intellectual disability; these percentages were significantly higher than that of white non-Hispanic children.

 “The findings on differences in co-occurring intellectual disability are interesting and suggests more research may be needed on how intellectual testing is performed with different groups and how decisions are made regarding identifying ASD in children with and without intellectual disability across racial and ethnic groups,” said Amy Esler, PhD, co-principal investigator for MN-ADDM.

“ADDM data is valuable in helping us understand not only the rates of autism, but also the characteristics of children with autism in our community. This data informs public policy and how we can improve services and supports,” said Jennifer Hall-Lande, PhD, co-principal investigator for MN-ADDM.

The MN-ADDM Network, which is part of the Institute on Community Integration in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota, collaborates with a wide variety of community ASD organizations and several Minnesota state organizations, including the Minnesota Departments of Education, Human Services, and Health. The MADDM Network also partners with an active community advisory board.

For more information on the MN-ADDM Network, visit https://addm.umn.edu. To access the CDC’s nationwide ADDM Network studies, visit https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/addm-community-report/index.html.

About the Institute on Community Integration:

The Institute on Community Integration is a federally-designated University Center for Excellence in Disabilities (UCEDD) at the University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development (CEHD). Through collaborative research, training, and outreach, the Institute improves policies and practices to ensure that all children, youth, and adults with disabilities are valued by and contribute to their communities of choice. To learn more, visit http://ici.umn.edu.