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1aimage.jpgAbout 1 in 32 Somali children, ages 7-9 in 2010, was identified as having autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in Minneapolis, according to new data released today by the University of Minnesota's College of Education and Human Development (CEHD). Somali and White children were about equally likely to be identified with ASD in Minneapolis. There is no statistically meaningful difference between the two estimates. Somali and White children were more likely to be identified with ASD than non-Somali Black and Hispanic children.

The Somali and White estimates from Minneapolis were higher than most other communities where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks autism spectrum disorder. The project estimates that 1 in 48 children reviewed in Minneapolis was identified as having ASD.

"We do not know why more Somali and White children were identified as having ASD than Black and Hispanic children in Minneapolis," said Amy Hewitt, director of the U of M Research and Training Center on Community Living in the Institute on Community Integration and primary investigator on the project. "This project was not designed to answer these questions, and future research is warranted."

Somali children with ASD were more likely to also have an intellectual disability (e.g., IQ lower than 70) than children with ASD in all other racial and ethnic groups in Minneapolis, according to the project findings.

"Future research can and should build upon these findings to better understand how ASD affects Somali and non-Somali children," said Hewitt. "This project was not designed to tell us why these differences exist, but its findings support the need for more research on why and how ASD affects Somali and non-Somali children and families differently."

This project also found that the age at first ASD diagnosis was around five years for Somali, White, Black, and Hispanic children.

"Children with ASD can be reliably diagnosed around 2 years of age," said Hewitt. "Further research must be done to understand why Minneapolis children with ASD, especially those who also have intellectual disability, are not getting diagnosed earlier."

To date, this is the largest project to look at the number and characteristics of Somali children with autism spectrum disorder in any U.S. community. However, these findings are limited to Minneapolis, and there are challenges in identifying ASD in small, ethnically diverse groups.

Susman-Stillman.jpgOn CEHD's 2020 Blog, Amy Susman-Stillman provides insights into the College's Policy Breakfast taking place on December 5, 2013. The event will focus on closing Minnesota's achievement gap through creating a sustainable early childhood system in the state. Dr. Susman-Stillman's work focuses on the role child care plays within in this evolving system. In her article, she offers some simple but powerful tips that babies' caretakers can use to support optimal development.

McConnellS-2009.jpgScott McConnell, professor of educational psychology and the Center for Early Education and Development's director of community engagement, and Ann Bettenburg, student services director for Moundsview schools, traveled to Ulaanbaatar Mongolia November 4-8 to better understand the current policy, practices, and infrastructure that support services for young children with disabilities throughout the country.

Working with the Mongolia Open Society Forum and Soros Open Society Foundations, McConnell and Bettenburg will be using information gained during this visit to prepare for and coordinate a study tour for policymakers, program directors, and advocates in Minnesota early in 2014.

Hmong Across BordersThe Consortium for Hmong Studies between the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin-Madison hosted the second Hmong studies conference "Hmong Across Borders," over three days in October. The conference focused on current, innovative research on the Hmong across different intellectual and national boundaries, by scholars from across the U.S., Thailand, and China.

Department of Family Social Science participants included professors Zha Blong Xiong and Catherine Solheim, and graduate student Kari Smalkoski, who presented twice and co-organized the conference.

Institute of Child Development alumna Rebecca ShlaferRebecca Shlafer (Ph.D. 2010), recently spoke to KARE 11 about her research on the doula program, Isis Rising, in the women's prison at Shakopee, MN. The program pairs a doula (a trained birth coach) with a pregnant inmate, which allows the inmate to receive delivery room support and prenatal and postnatal support that helps to foster not only a better, healthier birth experience and a healthier baby, but potentially a stronger start to a better relationship between the mother and her baby, which the program hopes will also foster healthy moms who don't return to prison. As one pregnant inmate put it: "I believe this is my chance. I'm going to have another kid. I need to get it together."

A privately-funded program, Isis Rising has reduced the number of caesarian births at Shakopee to around 3%, while the national rate is around 30%, and there have been no low-birth weight babies born in the program. Shlafer says that all of this saves the taxpayers money. And, she adds: "Putting aside the fact this mom has committed x, y, or z crime, all of the children in this are completely innocent."

ADAPTDepartment of Family Social Science professor Abi Gewirtz and her research project ADAPT (After Deployment: Adaptive Parenting Tools) were featured on KSTP-TV. One of the families who participated in the ADAPT project shared their experience of deployment and reintegration. Watch the news segment on KSTP's website.

ADAPT is looking to include several more families in their project. Find out more about the project's research and the resources they offer on the ADAPT website.

After Deployment: Adaptive Parenting ToolsThe Mankato Free Press featured families who have participated in the ADAPT project (After Deployment: Adaptive Parenting Tools), led by Department of Family Social Science Professor Abi Gewirtz, in an article about military families adjusting to life after deployment.

ADAPT recruits National Guard and Reserve families to participate in studies that help the ADAPT team to develop and test parenting resources for families who have gone through the deployment process and have school-aged children. They are currently seeking families to participate who meet their criteria.

More information on how to participate and what the project is about can be found on ADAPT's website.

The 2013 Light a Candle Award recipient is Lynn Haglin, who was presented the award at the Center for Early Education and Development's 40th anniversary celebration on Nov. 7 at the McNamara Alumni Center.

MaryMcEvoy.jpgThe Light a Candle award was created by CEED in honor of Mary McEvoy (right), Ph.D., a tireless researcher, advocate, and collaborator. A highly respected scholar, Dr. McEvoy served as the director of CEED from 1992 to 1999 and chaired the Department of Educational Psychology from 1999 to 2002. The award is presented to an individual or group that successfully promotes ties between research, policy, and practice to improve the lives of young children in Minnesota and throughout the world.


Lynn Haglin is the vice president and KIDS PLUS director for the Northland Foundation in Duluth. Her experience includes over 30 years in administration, community development, education, and philanthropy, with an extensive background in early childhood, youth development, and intergenerational programming. Haglin provides leadership for the foundation's KIDS PLUS Program, which is dedicated to improving the well-being of children and youth from birth to adulthood. Under her guidance, the KIDS PLUS family of programs has developed a wide array of initiatives in response to regional needs; raised millions of dollars from local, state, and national funding partners; provided extensive technical assistance to develop 52 coalitions serving rural communities and Indian reservations; and received numerous state and national honors and distinctions for innovative work aimed at helping children, youth, older adults, and communities thrive. During the past 10 years, Haglin has provided leadership for the Minnesota Initiative Foundations' Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative and the Minnesota Thrive Initiative.

Haglin has been involved in numerous boards and committees such as Ready 4-K: Youth Community Connections, Children, Youth and Family Consortium; BUILD Core Committee; and the Minnesota Department of Human Services Family, Friend, and Neighbor Advisory Committee. She is currently involved with the Start Early Funders Coalition, Parent Aware for School Readiness, Minnesota Department of Human Services Parent Aware Advisory Committee, and Minnesota Afterschool Network Strategic Leadership Team and Policy Committee.

Haglin holds a master of arts in educational leadership and administration from Western Michigan University and a bachelors of science in elementary education from Bemidji State University. Before joining the Northland Foundation in 1992, Haglin started her career as a kindergarten teacher and educator for the Early Childhood Family Education Program; she also taught at the college level. She and her husband, Reid, live in Superior, Wisconsin, and have two married sons, one soon-to-be married son, along with three granddaughters under the age of five.

CEED offers its congratulations and gratitude to Lynn Haglin for her dedication to early childhood education and the ways in which her work exemplifies the words of former Senator Paul Wellstone that inspired the award's name:

I know what I believe: I believe that every infant that I hold in my hands--every one of them, it makes no difference if it's a boy or a girl, rich or poor--that every child in Minnesota and our world can have the same chance to reach her full potential or his full potential. I call on all Minnesotans and all of Minnesota to light a candle and lead the way. We can lead the way in Minnesota, and we will lead the way.

--Paul Wellstone

Department of Family Social Science alumna Lindsay Walz (B.A., 2005) is one of three recipients of the 2013 Arts & Healing Network award: Honoring the Next Generation.

Lindsay is an artist and the founder of courageous heARTS, an organization empowering youth through expressive arts.

The Star Tribune featured her organization and her story in July.

The award category celebrates future leaders in art and healing, 35 years old an under, with a monetary prize that the organization hopes will encourage and support the recipients to continue and expand their work.

Find out more about family social science alumni on our website.

SLC in StarTrib 11-4.jpgThis month, C&I Faculty in Second Languages and Cultures have been tapped for their expertise in English language learning in Minnesota Public Schools. Last week, the Star Tribune ran the story, "Minnesota students learning English face an uphill battle, but innovations are helping."

In the article, Professor Kendall King suggests, "Many students come to school multilingual, with these rich oral traditions. Yet many don't have formal schooling, and may not be proficient in English or in academic language. It's a huge challenge."

Lecturer Susan Ranney offered additional insights, saying, "People can get fooled by conversational fluency. Academic language is much more complex and takes more time to learn. And it's much more crucial to pick up." Additionally, Ranney explains that the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) exams paint an incomplete picture of what is really happening in schools. Often, only struggling students are counted as English language learners; progress and success not represented in those test scores.

To read the full article, please visit the Star Tribune's website. For additional information on Second Languages and Cultures, please visit the Second Languages and Cultures program area page.

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