MPR News Reports ICI Data on Higher Autism Rates in Twin Cities Children

Thu Apr 26 2018
Logo of MPR News.

Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) News has reported on today's announcement of an ICI study revealing that childhood autism rates in the Twin Cities are higher than the national average. Conducted by the Institute's Minnesota-Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (MN-ADDM), the study identified 1 in 42 children (2.4 percent) 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 percent) 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.

The relatively high prevalence of autism in Hennepin and Ramsey counties could result from health and education systems doing a better job detecting autism than in other parts of the country, said Amy Hewitt, the principal investigator for the Minnesota study. She also emphasized the need for early diagnosis and treatment of autism. "A lot of children in Minnesota have autism and we need a service system that can find them early, get early intervention services to them, make sure that they're getting the treatment and education they need in schools and we have to keep in mind that these children grow up," Hewitt said. "They're going to transition, they're going to need jobs, they're going to need support throughout their life."

The study also examined autism rates among Somali- and Hmong-American children in the two urban counties. Anab Gulaid, who worked with Hewitt and other ICI staff on the study, said she and other researchers presented their findings to community leaders before making their results public. Such meetings provide context to the findings and Gulaid expects more of them will take place.

Note: This MPR News story was broadcast on National Public Radio (NPR) and has been reprinted in Somalia Online, Sahamiye News, Hiiraan Online, and Caasimada Online.