A recent report out of California shows that the number of kids with autism in special education in the state has tripled in the past eight years. Tripled! Tripled in eight years!
I'm trying to wrap my head around those numbers, which seem unprecedented in the world of special education.
Another trend (which has been noted elsewhere in the country) is that the numbers of kids with learning disabilities (such as dyslexia) is declining.
The report doesn't venture to guess why the autism numbers have risen (or blasted through the stratosphere, more descriptively), but the web is abuzz with its own theories.
Some commenters think that kids who had been diagnosed with a learning disability are being re-diagnosed with autism (or one claims that the LD evolves into autism). Others blame vaccines, of course, while others claim it's from living too close to highways, or from toxic chemicals in the environment.
While the reasons for this scary trend will have to be figured out by the conspiracy theorists and scientists, the school system has a real and immediate situation to figure out.
Kids on the autism spectrum typically require a lot of supports and modifications to succeed. Are schools prepared to take this on (if this is happening in California, one assumes it's on the rise elsewhere as well)?
Before this avalanche of newly diagnosed kids overwhelms the schools, schools need to devote resources to studying best practices for educating kids on the spectrum and helping them learn to navigate this world. It's a tall order, but obviously one that's not going away.