2017/18 Institute on Community Integration Annual Report

Early Intervention & ASD Highlights 2018

Libby Hallas-Muchow, MN-ADDM Project Coordinator at ICI, presented the project’s newly-released ASD prevalence findings at the International Society for Autism Research Annual Meeting in the Netherlands in May 2018.

ICI Researchers Unveil Minnesota Autism Rates as Part of Nationwide CDC Study

Study findings released this year by the Minnesota Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network  (MN-ADDM) at ICI identified 1 in 42 children (2.4%) of the observed population in Minnesota as having autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Focused on 8-year-olds, the study relied on 2014 data from the health and special education records of children in Hennepin and Ramsey counties of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area. As part of a nationwide network of studies funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's ADDM Network , the Minnesota study showed the rate of ASD to be higher than the national average of 1 in 59 (1.7%). "Minnesota's higher prevalence rates could be due, in part, to the concentration of services and supports in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area," said ICI's Amy Hewitt,  MN-ADDM principal investigator.

The Minnesota study was unique among ADDM Network studies because in addition to examining data from White, Black, and Hispanic populations, MN-ADDM also collected information on two large immigrant groups in the state: Somali and Hmong. The study found no significant statistical differences in prevalence between Somali (1 in 26) and non-Somali children or between Hmong (1 in 54) and other children. "While both these numbers may look very different from the overall Minnesota average, the sample sizes were too small to be able to tell if these differences are real or occurred by random chance," Hewitt said."Understanding the prevalence of autism in Minnesota communities is a critical first step as we make plans to ensure access to services from childhood through adulthood," said Hewitt. "We hope that as a result of the MN-ADDM project, the differences uncovered in this study will help us better understand health disparities in our state and to expand autism support services and the workforce network."

The MN-ADDM Network collaborates with a wide variety of community ASD organizations and several Minnesota state organizations, including the Minnesota Departments of Education, Human Services, and Health.

MNLEND Fellows posed for a photo marking completion of their year-long training.

Biggest-Ever Class of MNLEND Fellows Complete "an Incredible Year"

On May 17, 2018, 33 MNLEND Fellows received their Certificate of Completion, recognizing the culmination of their year-long appointment with the Minnesota Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (MNLEND) Program at ICI. The class of 2017-18 was the largest since the fellowships began in 2011, surpassing last year's record of 26.

Each year the MNLEND, which is funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, selects outstanding graduate/postgraduate students and community members to become Fellows. In partnership with academic departments at the University, the MNLEND offers Fellows a unique interdisciplinary training experience in policy advocacy and evidence-based research and practices that prepares them for leadership in serving children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and other neurodevelopmental and related disabilities and their families. The curriculum includes classroom instruction, clinical experiences, research, and a practicum. Applying the program’s training, Fellows design and engage in research and practicum experiences that can benefit community organizations. For example, one of this year’s Fellows collaborated with leaders of the Latino Childcare Providers Network (La Red) in the Twin Cities to support development and presentation of training in Spanish for Latino parents, focusing on early developmental milestones and signs of autism in young children. In another project, Fellows partnered with the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) to improve service delivery to multilingual and underserved young children with ASD and their families through evaluating the effectiveness of MPS services and processes for that population in the Early Education, Special Education, and Multilingual Departments, and addressing access to needed services in health, human services, and family supports.

One of this year’s MNLEND Fellows summed up the year this way: “MNLEND instilled in me this ‘can-do’ vibe…this ‘I-am-the-one-to-do-it’ attitude. As a growing leader, I will continue to think not only of the way things are, but also of the way things could be.”

Jennifer Hall-Lande  (standing on left in picture) and Asli Ashkir (standing at right) train community health workers to help parents monitor their children's early development and recognize early signs of autism.

ICI Trains Community Health Staff to Promote Child Development and Diagnose Autism Early

In February, Jennifer Hall-Lande  of ICI's Learn the Signs, Act Early  (LTSAE) program and Asli Ashkir of the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) partnered in training community health workers to help parents monitor their children's early development, recognize early signs of autism, and understand the importance of acting early if there are concerns. Held in St. Paul, the training provided information and resources for 30 community workers and MN Act Early/Help Me Grow delegates, many of whom were involved with education and outreach in child health, family health, and immunization safety. Representatives from many community outreach organizations attended, including the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program; Head Start; and county public health agencies."Asli brought this collaboration and outreach idea to me because community health workers play an important role in promoting child and family health. Community health workers are often asked about healthy child development and autism while they are out working in the community," says Hall-Lande, who is also Minnesota’s Act Early Ambassador, selected and trained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to spread the CDC's "Learn the Signs, Act Early" message throughout the state.

This community outreach training was just one example of the growing partnerships and community connections that have been built through the LTSAE projects that Hall-Lande leads at ICI. That work expanded again in Fall 2017 when the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), through a subcontract from CDC, awarded ICI a new nine-month project, "Learn the Signs, Act Early" Formative Research Evaluation of Developmental Books. "This grant adds to ICI's growing portfolio of 'Learn the Signs, Act Early' projects, including our Outreach Work and State Systems Grant: Minnesota Act Early," says Hall-Lande.


2017/18 Early Intervention Outreach and Training in the Community

A circle filled with line drawings of diverse people's faces and heads, accompanied by the caption: 1300-plus professionals, families, and postsecondary students attended workshops, webinars, classes, and other presentations on early intervention by ICI staff.


MNLEND Fellow Education in 2017/18

A drawing showing the outline of the fronts of three houses and two apartment buildings, with a larger face of a person behind them. The image has the caption: MNLEND delivered over 1400 hours of training in 35-plus topic areas to this year's cohort of 33 LEND fellows.