There may be no greater challenge facing public schools today than the staggering increase in children diagnosed with autism.
Public school administrators are facing the prospect of deeper budget cuts in cities and states nationwide. Meanwhile, schools with fewer resources are challenged to comply with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which guarantees "free appropriate" education to all disabled students, including the growing number of students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In addition, parents are pressuring schools to either comply with the IDEA or face legal action.
"There may be no greater challenge facing public schools today than the staggering increase in children diagnosed with autism," writes Fran Smith(1), a contributing editor at Edutopia.org, a website published by The George Lucas Educational Foundation.
To help school administrators and special education directors address that challenge, Rethink Autism and eSchool News are offering a webinar - "How to Serve More Students on the Autism Spectrum with Shrinking Budgets" - on Wednesday, August 11, 2010 at 2pm (EDT)/ 1pm (CDT). The webinar will show how schools can save costs (while still providing a quality evidence-based education for students with autism) by utilizing remote support services and low-cost web-based technology that offers curriculum planning, staff training and data tracking & reporting. To learn more or register for the webinar at no cost, visit rethinkautism2.eventbrite.com/.
An estimated 637,000 children ages 3-17 in the U.S. (or 1 in 91) had a current ASD diagnosis in 2007, according to a widely accepted study(2) published in Pediatrics. That represents a 67% increase from a previous estimate by the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, which reported autism rates of 66 per 10,000 children (or 1 in 150) in 2002.
Shrinking budgets and serving a growing number of students with an ASD are not the only issues that public schools are facing. However, the priority and urgency of the matter are compounded by the significant financial and legal risk of not addressing the issue.
"Parents press for evidence-based educational strategies and school administrators realize that it may be cheaper to beef up autism programs than continue to fight lawsuits," writes Smith. "In fact, almost every student at almost every leading private school for autism attends at public expense."
"Although we are in our most dismal budget time in education, I can't imagine us not spending the dollars necessary to continue with the Rethink Autism program," says Ms. Laura McGill, Program Specialist at the School District of Indian River County, Florida.
Rethink Autism's unique web-based program provides teachers with a comprehensive evidence-based curriculum through 1200+ video-based teaching steps, parent and staff training modules, an assessment tool, and progress tracking features. The curriculum, endorsed by leaders in the field of autism treatment and research, spans the entire autism spectrum and covers a broad range of skills, including academics, language, social, motor, daily living, and behavior management.
About Rethink Autism - Rethink Autism, Inc. seeks to ensure that every child on the autism spectrum has access to effective and affordable evidence-based treatment options by providing professionals, parents, and family members with the tools and information necessary to teach children with autism in a way that is easy to understand and apply.
(1) "Educators Deal with the Growing Problem of Autism," by Fran Smith, Edutopia (March 2008).
(2) "The Prevalence of Parent-Reported Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children in the United States, 2007," Oct. 5 2009 issue of Pediatrics.
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