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New Project Findings: Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Somali and Non-Somali Children in Minneapolis

The University of Minnesota was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Autism Speaks, and the National Institutes of Health through a cooperative agreement with the Association of University Centers on Disabilities to answer questions about the number of Somali and non-Somali children with autism spectrum disorder in Minneapolis. According to new data from the University of Minnesota, autism spectrum disorder is more common among Somali and White children than it is among other children in Minneapolis. Somali children are more likely to have both autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability than children with autism spectrum disorder in all other racial and ethnic groups in Minneapolis. Most children with autism spectrum disorder in Minneapolis are not diagnosed as early as they could be.  These new data can be used to understand how autism spectrum disorder affects children differently. The data can also be used to understand where improvements can be made so that all children in Minneapolis are identified and connected to services and supports as soon as possible.

This is the largest project to date looking at the number and characteristics of Somali children with autism spectrum disorder in any U.S. community. CDC will continue to support the Somali community in Minneapolis as they learn more about these new data and use the data to help Somali families living with autism. CDC will also continue to promote early identification and intervention, the most powerful tools we have right now for making a difference in the lives of children with autism spectrum disorder.

Main Findings from this Project

  • Based on children who were 7-9 years old and living in Minneapolis in 2010:
    • About 1 in 32 Somali children in Minneapolis were identified as having autism spectrum disorder.
      • This estimate of the number of Somali children with autism spectrum disorder is about the same as for White children but higher than Black and Hispanic children in Minneapolis.
    • Somali children with autism spectrum disorder were more likely to have intellectual disability than children with autism spectrum disorder in all other racial and ethnic groups in Minneapolis.
    • The average age of first autism spectrum disorder diagnosis among Somali children was the same as White, Black, and Hispanic children---about 5 years old. This means that many children in Minneapolis are not being diagnosed as early as they could be.

More Information

To learn more about the Minneapolis Autism Spectrum Disorder Somali Prevalence Project and to access project resources, including materials in Somali, please visit http://rtc.umn.edu/autism/.

To download developmental milestone checklists and other free materials for parents, healthcare providers, and early childhood educators, please visit www.cdc.gov/ActEarly.

To learn more about autism spectrum disorder, please visit www.cdc.gov/Autism.

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