Autism spectrum disorders: facts and figures

ASD in Minnesota:

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a developmental disability, something that happens in the early formation of the brain. A person with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most people. 

ASDs occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. ASDs affect each person in a different way, ranging from very mild to severe, which is why it's called a "spectrum disorder." There may be many factors that make a child more likely to have an ASD, including environmental, biological, and genetic factors. For more information about the causes, signs, and symptoms of ASD, see Minnesota Department of Health: Autism.

ASDs are treatable. Children do not outgrow ASD, but studies show that early diagnosis and intervention lead to improved outcomes. It's important to learn the signs and act early.

There is limited data on ASD prevalence in MN

Because there is no system to track statewide ASD prevalence, national survey data were used to estimate ASD in Minnesota.

The National Survey of Children's Health asked parents of children ages 2-17 if a doctor or other health care provider ever told them that their child had autism, Asperger's disorder, pervasive developmental disorder, or other autism spectrum disorder. The estimated number of Minnesota children with current ASD has increased from 20,519 (1.8 percent) in 2007 to 30,928 (2.7 percent)  in 2011-2012. This difference is notable but does not have statistical significance.

Minnesota has slightly higher than the estimated percentages of children nationally with current ASD (1.8 percent), but the difference is also not statistically significant. National data shows that ASDs occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, but are more common among boys than among girls.

Autism prevalence over time

*Current ASD among all children ages 2-17, National Survey of Children's Health
These estimates are based on very small sample sizes (2007: n=30, 2011: n=43), and have large confidence intervals [2007: 1.8 percent (1.0-2.7). 2011: 2.7 percent (1.5-3.9)].  True prevalence is not known.

Special education for autism is increasing

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates that special education and services designed to meet unique educational needs must be available to eligible children with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Education collects data to track states' compliance with the law.

The number and percent of children in Minnesota receiving education and related services under the category of autism spectrum disorders has been increasing. In 2011, over 3.6% of Minnesota children were receiving special education for ASD. About 0.7% of children ages 3-5, 1.6% of children ages 6-11, and 1.4% of children ages 12-17 received services for ASD.

Though it's not clear if autism prevalence has increased, there is a definitive increase in special education services for ASDs. Developmental screening is important - early identification, therapies, and education are the most powerful tools to help children with ASDs reach their full potential. 

Number of Minnesota children receiving special education for autism

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Part B Child Count Data,

Percent of Minnesota children receiving special education for autism

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Part B Child Count Data,

Resources for ASD