Minn. Somali named to federal autism panel

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has named a Minnesotan to serve on a federal autism advisory committee.

Somali-American Idil Abdull, who lives in Burnsville, has a son with autism and is co-founder of the Somali American Autism Foundation. She'll serve on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee. She has helped push for more research of the illness.

Abdull said autism appears to be more prevalent among some ethnic groups, and she hopes to represent those communities — many of which face language, cultural, or economic barriers in healthcare.

"I will like answers — I will like answers for better services for better treatment, for equality for children of color, and all kids, and also for real, good, hard-core research that tries to find the answers," Abdull said.

The federal government released new estimates Thursday showing that about one in 88 children in the United States has autism or a related disorder. That's the highest estimate to date.

Abdull said the new estimate validates what she's seen in her community.

"The numbers are there," Abdull said. "Autism is just so common right now. If you live in Minnesota, it's as common as the lakes."

Abdull said she plans to make regular appearances in Somali media to update parents on the federal committee's progress.

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