Regional News in Review – January 2014

Autism studied in Somali community The incidence of autism spectrum disorder is higher among Somali children in Minneapolis, higher than […]

Generic Article graphic with Access Press logo

Autism studied in Somali community

The incidence of autism spectrum disorder is higher among Somali children in Minneapolis, higher than the city’s children as a whole. It also appears to affect them more severely, according to University of Minnesota researchers.

This announcement confirms suspicions of many parents in the city’s large East African community. Somali children were more likely to have the disorder than non-Somali children in the city, the study found. The study didn’t explore why and didn’t speculate on possible reasons. But the findings back up the common belief among Somalis in Minneapolis that their children suffer from high rates of the disorder, said Amy Hewitt, the lead researcher on the study.

“A lot of children in the city of Minneapolis, including Somali children, have autism spectrum disorder and many of them are getting diagnosed late,” Hewitt said in an interview. “The average was five years. Kids can be reasonably diagnosed at age 2. So it’s really important to get these kids and families connected to services.”

According to the study, about 1 in 32 Somali children ages 7 to 9 were identified with autism spectrum disorder in Minneapolis in 2010, compared with 1 in 48 Minneapolis children overall. The incidence was 1 in 36 Caucasian children, which the researchers said was not a statisticallysignificant difference from the Somali figure.

The Minnesota researchers said they reviewed more than 5,000 clinical and school records, using established CDC statistical methods for estimating the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder in a community. The study looked only at data from Minneapolis, the center of Minnesota’s Somali community, which is the largest in the United States. The study was funded by the CDC, the National Institutes of Health and Autism Speaks. Read more about the Minnesota Somali Autism Spectrum Disorder Prevalence Project:   (Source: Star Tribune)


Great strides in federal hiring

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced that in Fiscal Year 2012, people with disabilities were hired at a higher percentage than at any point in the past 32 years. Additionally, people with targeted disabilities were hired at a higher percentage than at any time in the past 17 years. This success has also led to more people with disabilities serving in federal service than at any time in the past 32 years.

“People with disabilities are a vital part of the federal workforce, as we are better able to serve the American people because of the talents and experience they bring to the table,” said Office Director Katherine Archuleta. “Since President Obama issued his Executive Order in 2010, we’ve made substantial progress in hiring and retaining people with disabilities over the past three years. This work is enabling the federal government to continue to develop as a model employer for people with disabilities.”

According to the “Employing People with Disabilities in the Federal Executive Branch” report in FY 2012, federal employees with disabilities represented 11.89 percent of the overall workforce, including veterans who are 30 percent or more disabled. 16 percent of new hires in FY 2012 were people with disabilities, up from 14 percent in FY 2011. Additionally, 14 percent of General Schedule grade 14 and 15 new hires in FY 2012 were people with disabilities, up from 12 percent in FY 2011. On July 26, 2010, President Barack Obama issued Executive Order, Increasing Federal Employment of Individuals with Disabilities, in which he stated that the federal government must become a model for the employment of individuals with disabilities.

To view the report, visit:  (Source: Office of Personnel Management)



Anti-bullying bill to return

Anti-bullying groups held rallies in St. Paul and Duluth December to renew efforts to pass a statewide anti-bullying law. A stronger law is sought by many groups, including parents of children with disabilities. They contend current law is too vague and is ineffective.

Rallies across the state called for a new anti-bullying law to replace Minnesota’s short, 37-word statute. Schools are required to have anti-bullying policies. Critics say the current law is among the weakest in the nation. A proposed law, to be introduce during the 2014 legislative session, would include detailed definitions of bullying, require schools to teach staffers how to see it and stop it, and investigate all reported cases.

Foes of the proposals criticize it as having high costs for schools. They also claim it is too vague and potentially intrusive. Some school districts have objected to changing the law.

The Minnesota Legislature failed to pass an anti-bullying bill in 2013, despite efforts by many advocacy groups to get a bill passed. (Source: WCCO-TV)


Westrom to run for Congress


Westrom lost his sight at the age of 14 in a farm-related accident. As an elected official, he has been a strong advocate for people with disabilities. He has long worked to eliminate barriers to help them become more independent in their living and employment opportunities. He was first elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 1997, and later elected to the Senate.

Westrom is a conservative with a record of creating rural jobs and ensuring that the government operates within its means. Westrom is a strong supporter of smaller government and supports the need for a balanced budget amendment.

Westrom grew up on a Minnesota dairy farm. He and his wife, Anna, are small business owners. They have three children. To learn more, visit  (Source: Westrom for Congress)



  • Wash your hands! Hands that look can still have icky germs!
  • Work with your care provider to stay healthy. Protect yourself. Vaccines are your best protection against being sick.

You are not alone. Minnesota Autism Resource Portal.