A Snapshot of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Wisconsin

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Findings from the Wisconsin Surveillance of Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities System (WISADDS) help increase understanding 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.

Wisconsin map


1 in 60

or 1.7% of 8-year-old children in an area of Wisconsin were identified with ASD by WISADDS in 2016

Wisconsin prevalence


This percentage is lower than the average percentage identified with ASD (1.85%) in all communities in the United States where CDC tracked ASD in 2016.

White children were 1.2x more likely

To be identified with ASD than black children

and 1.1x more likely than Black children

and 1.1x more likely
than Hispanic children

and 1.1x more likely than Hispanic children

Values indicate prevalence per 1,000 children

50% of children

Identified with ASD received a Comprehensive Developmental Evaluation by age 3 years

Wisconsin CDE

Boys were 4.2x

More likely to be identified with ASD than girls.

More likely to be identified with ASD than girls.

81% of children

Identified with ASD had a documented ASD diagnosis

Wisconsin Documented Diagnosis

By 49 months

half of children identified with ASD were diagnosed

IQ data available for 65%

Of children identified with ASD by WISADDS

a documented ASDdiagnosis IQ data available for 65% Of children

What are the key take-away messages?

  • The percentage of children with ASD in southeastern Wisconsin increased from about 1.4% in 2014 to about 1.7% in 2016.
  • Outreach to Hispanic and black communities is needed to ensure timely access to autism-related services.
  • Half of children identified with ASD received a comprehensive developmental evaluation by age 3 years, suggesting that many children aren’t receiving services as early as possible.

How can this information be useful?

WISADDS’ latest findings can be used to:

  • Promote early identification of ASD;
  • Plan for the service needs of individuals with ASD and provide trainings related to ASD for healthcare providers and families;
  • Guide future ASD research; and
  • Inform policies promoting access to health care and education for individuals with ASD and improved outcomes across the lifespan.

Stakeholders in Wisconsin might consider different ways to:

  • Increase awareness of developmental monitoring and empower parents to act if there is a concern about their child’s development;
  • Lower the age of first evaluation by community providers; and
  • Increase awareness of ASD among Hispanic and black families and identify and address barriers to evaluation and diagnosis in order to decrease the age at which Hispanic children are evaluated and diagnosed.

How and where was this information collected?

WISADDS uses a record review method. Specifically, this information is based on the analysis of data collected from the health and education records of children who were 8 years old and living in one of 10 counties in southeastern Wisconsin in 2016.

Tracking area
Dane, Green, Jefferson, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Rock, Walworth, and Waukesha counties

8-year-old children in tracking area: 35,034

  • 58% white
  • 19% black
  • 18% Hispanic
  • 5% Asian or Pacific Islander

What else does WISADDS do besides tracking the frequency of ASD among 8-year-olds?

WISADDS collaborates with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and investigators from the University of Wisconsin-Madison to describe the number and characteristics of 8-year-olds with ASD, cerebral palsy, and/or intellectual disability. WISADDS also tracks the number and characteristics of 4-year-olds with ASD. WISADDS facilitates training and provides access to materials related to developmental disabilities for professionals.

“We have the opportunity to work with a lot of different people in the
communities we serve. Being able to use WISADDS data to inform parents,
educators, medical personnel, social workers, and more helps us deliver trusted,
accurate information that everyone can understand. Recently we have been
meeting with teams around early identification and screening. The information
about when something was noticed and when something was diagnosed
helps our teams figure out where the gaps are in the system of care.”

– Tim Markle
Director of the Southern Regional Center for Children and Youth
with Special Health Care Needs, Wisconsin


Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin
Information and support for
www.autismgreaterwi.org/external icon

Birth to Three Program, Wisconsin Department of Health Services
Services for children under the age of 3 years with developmental delays or disabilities
www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/birthto3/index.htmexternal icon

Finding Your Way
Guide for Wisconsin families who have children and youth with special needs and disabilities
products/community/FYW_e.pdfpdf iconexternal icon

Learn the Signs. Act Early.
Resources for families and professionals on child development and what to do if there is a concern
Kris Barnekow
Wisconsin’s Act Early Ambassador

Well Badger Resource Center
Information and referral hotline for families/providers working with children and youth with special needs:
Maternal and Child Health and First Step Resource line at 800-642-7837
https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/mch/well-badger.htmexternal icon

Connect with WISADDS
Maureen Durkin, PhD, DrPH
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Waisman Center
1500 Highland Ave, Room s101E