Looking for the latest stories? We're now at cironline.org

Autism rate triples among K-12 students

joe goldberg/Flickr

Special education students with autism in California have more than tripled in number since 2002, even as overall special education enrollment has remained relatively flat, according to an analysis of state education data released yesterday.

More than 680,000 students – 11 percent of all California public school students – are enrolled in special education. The number of students diagnosed with autism climbed from 17,508 in 2002 to 59,690 in 2010, the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health found.

Students with autism represented 8.8 percent of all special education enrollment last year, up from 2.6 percent in 2002. Other health impairments – defined by the state as "limited strength, vitality or alertness, due to chronic or acute health problems," such as a heart condition, asthma, epilepsy or leukemia – are also on the rise, comprising 7.9 percent of disabilities among special education students.

At the same time, the number of special education students with a learning disability – the most common diagnosis – is falling. In 2002, 52.4 percent of students had a learning disability, compared to 42.3 percent in 2010. Speech or language impairment affects about one-quarter of special education students.

The data do not explain these shifts in disability diagnoses. The foundation has asked the public to provide perspective on the trends, which track with special education figures nationwide. Autism is the fastest-growing student disability in the country, and learning disability rates are declining, according to a 2009 report [PDF] by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Disability and special education data by county and school district are available at kidsdata.org.

 

Comments

Comments are closed for this story.
maurinemeleck's picture
This rate comes as no surprise to the huge autism community that has been begging for years for an independent vaccinated vs unbvaccinated study of children to prove or disprove what we believe is one of the big causes of autism.Just wait until all these children reach adulthood in the very near future. Taxpayers will be supporting them for a lifetime. Maurine meleck, SC
Dad Of Cameron's picture
This rate comes as no surprise to the huge autism community that has been begging for years for an independent vaccinated vs unbvaccinated study of children to prove or disprove what we believe is one of the big causes of autism.
That "huge" "autism community" Maurine Meleck refers to is little more than a group of fringe anti-vaccine advocates, hardly representative of any "autism community" in general.
Just wait until all these children reach adulthood in the very near future. Taxpayers will be supporting them for a lifetime.
The taxpayers won't be supporting an offsetting and equivalent portion of children with specific learning disabilities when they reach adulthood. Or did Maurine Meleck miss that fact. Has she looked at the IDEA data? The increases in students wearing a special education label of "autism" are more than offset by the decreases in students wearing a special education label of "specific learning disabilities" during the past 10 years in California. Total special education numbers are flat, and have been for years in California. By Maurine Meleck's logic, that same "huge" "autism community" should have been begging for years for an independent vaccinated vs. unvaccinated study of children to prove what is obviously one of the big causes of the huge decrease in specific learning disabilities in California.
Momomgfamily's picture
This doesn't surprise me really. Number one, there are fewer physical birth defects thanks to advances in prenatal and early childhood care. Second, more autistic children are being brought up in a more mainstream environment. It does not necessarily mean there are more autistic children, but they are more visible. Think of the movie Rain Man. Dustin Hoffman's character had been institutionalized. No school enrollment for him....so out of the picture, his brother didn't even know he existed! Now, kids like him are being enrolled in school!
phoebe_fan's picture
The report shows, if you click through to it, that learning disability/special education rates in California (and the rest of the country) only started declining in 1999 and that was due to finance reform. The autism boom in California started in 1988/89.

via Twitter

© 2013 California Watch   /  development:  Happy Snowman Tech   /  design: