Now is the time to transform how we teach students with autism

A 30-year education veteran lays out his vision for how schools can best support this growing population of students

America, we may have a problem.

The CDC recently announced new prevalence rates for autism. The increase from 1 in 68 to 1 in 59 children identified as having autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is significant because we know that 95-97 percent of children with autism are being served in America’s public schools.

With lifetime costs for our current school-aged population of children on the spectrum estimated at between $1.4 and $2.4 million per student, the new numbers present continuing staffing, fiscal, and in some cases facility challenges. However, this does not have to be “doom and gloom” for an already stressed educational system. This is the time for school and school system leaders to shift what they think, how hey think, and ultimately what they do to build the requisite skills, knowledge, and experiences for our students with ASD.

Over the past two years, I have dived deeply into the world of ASD. After a career in education, I was introduced to an innovative use of new technology that creates engagement, access, and opportunity for life-changing impact. When children on the spectrum learn to self-regulate in a humane and civil manner, they are empowered. Empowerment leads to building other skill sets, such as social and emotional understanding, that will assist them their entire life. To truly educate these students, educators must embrace three challenging ideas.

1. Engagement is learning.
Though it may appear as teetering on the obvious, students who are engaged learn. Children with disabilities and those with autism are no exception.

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