TPT TV Interviews Hewitt on Autism Study by ICI and CDC's Network

Fri Apr 27 2018
Logo of TPT -- Twin Cities Public Television.

During its "Almanac" weekly news program, TPT (Twin Cities Public Television) interviewed Amy Hewitt  about the recent announcement of an ICI study revealing that childhood autism rates in the Twin Cities are higher than the national average. Hewitt is the lead researcher at the Institute's Minnesota-Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (MN-ADDM), which conducted the study. It 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.

ICI's project is 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 somewhat higher rate of ASD among 8-year-olds in Ramsey and Hennepin counties contrasts with the rate of 1 in 59 (1.7 percent) that CDC found in the other 10 communities around the country where the ADDM Network tracked autism prevalence. This is the first time Minnesota has been involved in the ADDM Network.

Hewitt was asked why autism rates are higher among children in the two urban counties. This could result from health and education systems doing a better job detecting autism than in other parts of the country, or as Hewitt explained, it may be that families of children with autism prefer to live in urban areas where support services are concentrated. She stressed the need for early diagnosis of autism so families could access these services, resulting in better outcomes for the person with autism.

The study also examined autism rates among Somali- and Hmong-American children in Hennepin and Ramsey counties and observed a relatively higher rate of autism among Somali-American children. However, Hewitt explained that the sample size of autism among these groups of children was so small that the observation may be mere chance.