Rise in autism increases calls for awareness

From staff and wire reports
April 27th, 2012

There has been an explosion in autism-related treatment and services for children.

A new report issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in early April during Autism Awareness Month indicates that one child out of 88 is believed to have autism or a related disorder, prompting autism education advocates to call for better autism services.

Advocacy groups seized on the new number as further evidence that autism research and services should get more attention, especially when tight school budgets often lead to the downsizing or elimination of much-needed special education programs. The increase in the rate is attributed largely to wider screening.

“Autism is now officially becoming an epidemic in the United States,” said Mark Roithmayr, president of Autism Speaks.

The previous estimate was 1 in 110. The new figure is from the latest in a series of studies that have steadily raised the government’s autism estimate. This new number means autism is nearly twice as common as officials said it was only five years ago, and likely affects roughly 1 million U.S. children and teens.

Experts have said that a number of key steps are important in a school-based autism program in order to effectively support students with autism, including individualized assessment, functional curriculum, research-based teaching, low staffing ratios, family involvement, data tracking, and training and supervision.

There has been an explosion in autism-related treatment and services for children. In 1990, Congress added autism as a separate disability category to a federal law that guarantees special education services. School districts have been building up autism-addressing programs since.

Companies have heard educators’ call for help in the form of software and other intervention products that can help them reach more students with autism:

  • School Improvement Network and Autism Training Solutions announced a partnership that will deliver professional development to teachers struggling to manage disruptive classroom behavior. Course participants will have access to six extensive teaching videos prepared by leading experts on autism and special needs, as well as temporary access to the entire PD 360 professional development video library.

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One Response to “Rise in autism increases calls for awareness”

May 1, 2012

As you mention in this article about the rise in rates of Autism Spectrum Disorder, educators must pay close attention to several vital factors, including progress monitoring for individual children to support intervention; developmentally-appropriate and research-based curriculum and instruction; and teacher training and support. In addition to the resources you mention, a multitude of new solutions and practices are now available to support the education of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Appropriate technology can customize learning experiences and facilitate the collection of learning data through progress monitoring.

A former colleague of mine and a leader in the research and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder, Dr. Mike Assel, will be presenting a free webinar on May 17 at 2:00 p.m., “Autism in the Preschool Classroom: What Educators Need to Know.” The webinar is an opportunity to hear an expert voice on how Autism Spectrum Disorder affects the preschool learning environment, and exactly what educators can do to support children with disabilities. You can preview & register for the webinar on my organization’s blog:

Dr. Dale McManis
Research Director
Hatch Early Learning