A Snapshot of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Colorado

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Findings from the Colorado Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (CO-ADDM) Project help us to understand more about the number of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the characteristics of those children, and the age at which they are first evaluated and diagnosed.

1.4 percent is lower than the average percentage identified with ASD in 2014 1.7 percent in all ADDM sites.

children icons showing 1 in 72 children

1 in 72 8-year-old children were identified with ASD by CO-ADDM in 2014

Disparities in Identification

Boys were more likely to be identified with ASD than girls. White children were more likely to be identified with ASD than Hispanic children.

3.9x more likely among boys vs. girls, 1.4x more likely among white vs Hispanic children, no significant difference among black vs. Hispanic children or white vs black children
Intellectual Disability in Colorado

Colorado had intelligence quotient (IQ) data available for 76% of children identified with ASD. Of those children, 21.4% had intellectual disability.

21.4 percent had intellectual disability

Intellectual disability is defined as an IQ score of 70 or lower.

Of children identified with ASD …about 89 percent had developmental concerns by 3 years of age. …but only about 46 percent received a comprehensive developmental evaluation by 3 years of age.

Of children identified with ASD...

…about 89% had developmental concerns by 3 years of age.

…but only about 46% received a comprehensive developmental evaluation by 3 years of age.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the key take-away messages?
  • Many children are living with ASD who need services and support, now and as they grow into adolescence and adulthood.
  • Hispanic children were less likely to be identified with ASD than white or black children. Research does not show that being Hispanic makes a child less likely to develop ASD. This difference in identification may reflect cultural and/or socioeconomic differences, such as delayed or lack of access to services, as compared to other groups in Colorado.
  • Despite the developmental concerns noted in many of the children’s records by 3 years of age, less than half of children identified with ASD received a comprehensive developmental evaluation by this same age. The lag between first concern and first developmental evaluation may affect when children are being diagnosed and connected to the services they need.
  • Although ASD can be diagnosed as early as 2 years of age, about half of children were not diagnosed with ASD by a community provider until after age 4 years and 3 months. Of the children identified with ASD in Colorado through the CO-ADDM Project, only 58 percent had either eligibility for autism special education services or a clinical autism diagnosis documented in their records.
How can this information be useful?

The CO-ADDM Project’s latest findings can be used to

  • Promote early identification of ASD,
  • Plan for ASD services and training,
  • Guide future ASD research, and
  • Inform policies promoting improved outcomes in health care and education for individuals with ASD.

Stakeholders in Colorado might consider different ways to

  • Lower the age of first evaluation by community providers.
  • Increase awareness of ASD among Hispanic families, and identify and address barriers in order to decrease the age at which all children are evaluated and diagnosed.
How and where was this information collected?

The CO-ADDM Project uses a record review method. Specifically, this information is based on the analysis of data collected from the health and some special education records of children who were 8 years old and living in one of 7 counties in Colorado in 2014.

  • Tracking area: Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, and Jefferson counties
  • Children in tracking area: 41,128 8-year-olds
    • 55 percent white
    • 7 percent black
    • 33 percent Hispanic
    • 5 percent Asian or Pacific Islander
    • Less than 1 percent American Indian or Alaska Native
What else does CO-ADDM do besides track ASD among 8-year-olds?

The CO-ADDM Project is a collaboration between the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and JFK Partners at the University of Colorado Denver to track the number and characteristics of 4-year-olds and 8-year-olds with ASD and/or intellectual disability. The CO-ADDM Project offers tailored presentations on the number and characteristics of children with ASD in Colorado, and links families and community partners with resources to improve collaboration across the ASD community in Colorado.

Get Resources and Connect Families to Services and Support in Colorado

“In Colorado, we are especially concerned about disparities that may occur in clinical diagnoses as well as educational identification of ASD. To address this concern, researchers at the University of Colorado Denver have increased our collaborative efforts with the Colorado Department of Education to understand the data and contexts that may influence disproportionality pertaining to ASD educational identification, particularly among African American and Latino populations. We are hopeful that our findings will influence the promotion of more culturally and linguistically responsive ASD identification practices in the schools”

– Bryn Harris, PhD, NCSP, LP; Associate Professor, School of Education and Human Development
& Department of Pediatrics, University of Colorado Denver
-Brook Carson, PhD; State Autism Specialist, Colorado Department of Education

Autism Society of Colorado
www.autismcolorado.orgexternal icon

Colorado sites of Autism Treatment Network
www.jfkpartners.orgexternal icon
www.childrenscolorado.orgexternal icon

Department of Education’s Office of Special Education
www.cde.state.co.us/cdespedexternal icon
Brooke Carson, Autism Specialist

Early Intervention Colorado
www.eicolorado.orgexternal icon

Family Voices Colorado
www.familyvoicesco.orgexternal icon

CDC’s Learn the Signs. Act Early.
Eileen Auer Bennet, Colorado’s Act Early Ambassador

The Arc of Colorado
www.thearcofco.orgexternal icon

Connect with CO-ADDM
Tiffany C. White, PhD, MSPH
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
4300 Cherry Creek South Drive
Denver, CO 80228