The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) recently released its annual Child Count report on students with disabilities for 2014. The report indicates 17,067 children and youth between the ages of 0-21 have been identified as having an autism diagnosis. This increase from the 2013 count of 16,603 makes 2014 the eighteenth consecutive year of growth in autism diagnoses in Minnesota schools.
The annual count by MDE reports only on the number of students who require an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) as a result of their autism challenges. It does not include students who may have a medical diagnosis of autism, but do not require additional supports or services in the classroom.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), children with autism can reliably be diagnosed by age 2, and often earlier. “Autism is a complex disorder,” AuSM’s Executive Director Jonah Weinberg said. “Every individual with autism is impacted differently, but research shows that when early interventions and therapies begin by age 2-3, individuals have a much better chance of mitigating their disabilities and of being classroom-ready when it’s time for kindergarten.”
Because there is no mandatory registry for autism diagnoses in Minnesota, there is not a complete count of those diagnosed with autism within the state. Students with autism who meet their IEP goals and no longer require special education services may be removed from the MDE count, as are individuals over the age of 21 who have aged-out of the educational system. As a result, the actual number of individuals living with autism in Minnesota is unknown. However, the CDC estimates that approximately 1 percent of the population has autism, which is approximately 53,000 individuals in Minnesota, based on the most recent census data.
Established in 1971, the Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM) is the state’s oldest autism-focused non-profit organization, serving the autism community from birth through retirement. AuSM focuses on education, outreach, and advocacy, and works through partnerships and collaborations to improve and expand community resources and programs