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 us to understand how many children have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the characteristics of those children, and the age at which they are first evaluated and diagnosed.

wiconsin-site-tracking-area-map
1 in 53

Or 1.9% of 8-year-old children were identified with ASD in WISADDS in 2018

Wisconsin charts Percentage children identified

 

This percentage is higher than it was in 2016 (1.7%) but still lower than the overall percentage identified with ASD (2.3%) in all communities where CDC tracked ASD among 8-year-olds in 2018.

Among 8-year-olds

ASD prevalence was similar among Black, White, Hispanic, and Asian or Pacific Islander children.

chart- ASD prevalence was similar among Black, White, Hispanic, and Asian or Pacific Islander children.

Values indicate prevalence per 1,000 children

Among 8-year-olds

Fewer than half (48.1%) with ASD received a comprehensive developmental evaluation by age 3 years

icon indicating Fewer than half (48.1%)

Among both 4-year-old and 8-year-old children,

boys were as likely as girls to be identified with ASD

Among 4-year-olds

Black, Hispanic, and Asian or Pacific Islander children were respectively 1.4x, 2.4x, and 1.7x as likely to be identified with ASD as White children. Hispanic 4-year-old children were also 1.7x as likely to be identified with ASD as Black children

bar chart - Black, Hispanic, and Asian or Pacific Islander children were respectively 1.4x, 2.4x, and 1.7x as likely to be identified with ASD as White children.

Values indicate prevalence per 1,000 children.

About 1 in 56

Or 1.8% of 4-year-old children were identified with ASD in WISADDS in 2018

chart - 1.8% of 4-year-old children were identified with ASD in WISADDS in 2018

This percentage is higher than the overall percentage identified with ASD (1.7%) in all communities where CDC tracked ASD in 2018.

Children who were born in 2014 (1.36%) were 2.1x as likely to receive an ASD diagnosis or ASD special education classification by 48 months of age compared to children born in 2010 (0.66%)

Wisconsin chart showing age in months

Cumulative incidence of ASD identified per 1000 children.

What are the key take-away messages?

  • The percentage of 8-year-old children with ASD increased in southeastern Wisconsin, from 1.7% in 2016 to 1.9% in 2018.
  • The prevalence of ASD has varied across racial and ethnic groups since 2002. For the first time, in 2018, the prevalence was higher for 4-year-old Hispanic children than any other group. The gap in prevalence between White and Black children narrowed.
  • Regardless of age, boys are more likely to be identified with ASD than girls.
  • Despite developmental concerns noted in many of the children’s records by 3 years of age, only 48.1% of children identified with ASD received a comprehensive developmental evaluation by age 3 years.
  • Information about cognitive functioning was available for 39.3% of children identified with ASD. Of those children, 44.7% are estimated to have intellectual disability

How can this information be useful?

WISADDS’ latest findings can be used to:

  • Promote early identification of ASD.
  • Plan for ASD services and training.
  • Guide future ASD research.
  • Inform policies promoting access to health care and education for individuals with ASD and improved outcomes over the life course.

Partners in Wisconsin might consider different ways to:

  • Increase awareness of developmental monitoring and empower parents to act when there is a concern about their child’s development.
  • Lower the age of first evaluation by community providers.
  • Increase awareness of ASD among Black and Asian communities and identify and address barriers to early evaluations and services.

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 special education records of children who were 4 years old and 8 years old and living in 1 of 8 counties in southeastern Wisconsin in 2018.

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

8-year-old children in tracking area: 29,664

  • 57% White
  • 19% Black
  • 17% Hispanic
  • 5% Asian or Pacific Islander
  • 1% American Indian or Alaska Native

4-year-old children in tracking area: 28,689

  • 59% White
  • 20% Black
  • 15% Hispanic
  • 6% Asian or Pacific Islander
  • 1% American Indian or Alaska Native

*Estimates may not sum to 100% due to rounding.

What else does WISADDS do besides provide estimates of ASD?

WISADDS collaborates with partners in Wisconsin to raise awareness about the number and characteristics of children with ASD. In addition to 8-year-olds and 4-year-olds, WISADDS conducts follow-up of outcomes at age 16. WISADDS is also engaged in training and dissemination of information related to developmental disabilities for professionals.

“The Latinx community is the largest minority and the fastest growing in the United States, yet many of their health care and social needs are not often taken into account when developing programs. Many times, programs are not developed with the collaboration of community experts and not considering the needs of this community, like language and culturally appropriate materials, particularly in the area of children with special needs. We are seeing a marked increase in the cases of autism in our community. Going forward we hope that more appropriate programs could be developed to address the needs of this vibrant community.”

– PATRICIA TELLEZ-GIRON, MD,
Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, Co-Chair of the Dane County Latino Health Council

Resources

AUTISM SOCIETY OF WISCONSIN
Information and support for families/providers
1-888-4-AUTISM
www.asw4autism.org

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.htm

FINDING YOUR WAY
Guide for Wisconsin families who have children and youth with special needs and disabilities
www.ucedd.waisman.wisc.edu/fyw/

CDC’S LEARN THE SIGNS. ACT EARLY.
Kris Barnekow
Wisconsin’s Act Early Ambassador
https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/ambassadors-list.html

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:
800-642-7837
www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/mch/well-badger.htm

CONNECT WITH WISADDS
Maureen Durkin, PhD, DrPH University of Wisconsin-Madison Waisman Center
1500 Highland Ave, Room s101E
608-263-7507
mdurkin@wisc.edu