Autism :: Increases in autism rates not surprising to education expert

The new national study showing higher-than-expected incidences of autism comes as no surprise to special education personnel and autism advocates, says a special education professor at the University of Indianapolis.

?We have seen the rates of autism increase dramatically over the last seven years,? notes Dr. John Somers, director of graduate programs and coordinator of special education in UIndy?s School of Education.

The rise in autism cases puts intense pressure on schools to meet the needs of autistic children. ?Schools are reeling today to accommodate the needs of the increasing number of children diagnosed with autism,? Somers explains. ?Because students with autism embody a multitude of needs and services (special education teachers, speech-language pathologists, physical and occupational therapists, etc.), the increase is overwhelming and we do not have enough school personnel trained in this area to deliver much needed services.?

Somers also noted that today autism is readily identifiable as a neurological disorder and, while no parent wants their child to have medical problems, autism is a more ?comfortable? diagnosis because it carries fewer stigmas than a diagnosis of other disorders such as mental retardation or emotional disability.

Somers hopes that the findings of the study will lead to more funding to care for autistic children. ?This documented increase in autism should put pressure on state legislatures and Congress to address the monetary resources that schools and society will need to meet the needs of autistic children and their families.?

The professor?s comments were made in response to a study released Feb. 8 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, which indicated that the autism rate is now 1 in 150.

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