ICI Researchers Unveil Minnesota Autism Rates as Part of Nationwide CDC Study

Wed May 16 2018
Diverse schoolchildren.

A new study by the Minnesota-Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (MN-ADDM) at ICI identified 1 in 42 children (2.4%) of the observed population as having autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in Minnesota. Focused on children who were 8 years old, the study relied on 2014 data from the health and special education records of 9,767 children in Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

As part of a nationwide network of studies funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Autism and Developmental Disability Monitoring Network (ADDM), the Minnesota-specific study shows the rate of ASD is higher than the national average. The CDC found that, on average, 1 in 59 (1.7%) children was identified as having ASD in communities where prevalence was tracked by the ADDM Network (this is the first time Minnesota has been involved in the ADDM Network). "Minnesota's higher prevalence rates could be due, in part, to the concentration of services and supports in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area," said ICI's Amy Hewitt, the principal investigator for the Minnesota study.

The Minnesota study is unique in relation to other ADDM Network studies 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 study 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 26 for Somali children and 1 in 54 for Hmong children. "While both these numbers may look very different from the overall Minnesota average of 1 in 42, the sample sizes were too small to be able to tell if these differences are real or occurred by random chance," Hewitt said. "By being able to expand our study area beyond the borders of Hennepin and Ramsey counties in future studies, we will be able to gain a better perspective on autism rates among all Minnesotans, including those of Somali and Hmong descent."

"Understanding the prevalence of autism in Minnesota communities is a critical first step as we make plans to ensure access to services from childhood through adulthood," said Hewitt. "We hope that as a result of the MN-ADDM project, the differences uncovered in this study will help us better understand health disparities in our state and to expand Minnesota's autism support services and workforce network."

The MN-ADDM Network collaborates with a wide variety of community ASD organizations and several Minnesota state organizations, including the Minnesota Departments of Education, Human Services, and Health. For more details on the findings see the full press release about the study and the full Community Report from the CDC. The study was widely reported in the media including Twin Cities Public Television, Minnesota Public Radio, Hiiraan Online, and KARE11 television. The study was also featured on the Improving Lives CEHD Vision 2020 Blog from the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD), University of Minnesota.