By Anne Dachel
I've read dozens of stories about what's happening to special education in recent days. I wrote this piece about the heated reaction to an Australian lawmaker who said that inclusion of severely autistic children in regular ed classes is taking a huge toll on teachers.
While health officials, doctors, and of course the media have spent the last two decades telling us our children are fine, all we have to do is keep on vaccinating them and shine those blue lights every April. These same three groups have scoffed at the idea that vaccines are damaging kids and pretended that more and more disabled students in our schools is better recognition. It's much more than just the rate of autism, something that no one is really concerned about, no matter what statistics are out there--it's also the flood of kids who can't speak, can't learn normally, and can't behave in a classroom. We've made up endless labels for them without any questions being asked.
This story from California tells it all. So how long have we got as a country? How bad does the situation have to get before this is a crisis? REGARDLESS of the controversy over the cause, we have to admit there is something going on.
June 24, 2017, Bakersfield.com: The price of special education: As autism rates surge among children, so does the cost to educate them
An unexplained increase in autistic and emotionally disturbed students is driving up special education enrollments — a huge problem for school districts that aren't getting any additional state and federal funds to cover the ballooning costs.
All they can do is dive into their reserves.
In 2013, the Kern High School District had 3,173 students with Individualized Education Programs. It's projected to serve almost 1,000 more next year. The Bakersfield City School District saw 64 new autistic students last year, bringing the total number of its special ed students north of 3,100 — a 4 percent increase over the prior year.
Experts can only speculate as to why autism diagnoses are on the rise – they've been attributed to everything from genetic deficiencies to better detection to vaccines. But those in special education are sure of one thing: the costs are staggering.
“We’re drowning,” Roberta Joseph, a speech language therapist at Leo G. Pauly Elementary School said.
Some disabled students cost more to educate than others. But on average, KHSD paid about $19,170 to accommodate each of about 3,800 special education students last year. BCSD educated 3,146 students at $16,326 apiece. ...
“The number of special education students has been rising and the cost of an individual special ed student, especially the more challenging students, is significant,” said Julianna Gaines, executive director of the Kern County Superintendent of Schools Consortium SELPA. ....
KHSD will see 333 more disabled students next year, an 8 percent increase over last year. It has already hired more special education teachers to add to the 235 on staff, and added classrooms to accommodate them, Niday said.
Most special education students require two to three times the staffing of a general one.
“In your basic special education classroom, they would have a teacher, and then most students require additional supports, so there’s additional staff members. There’s speech pathologists, a mental health clinician, behaviorists, psychologists,” Niday said.
Autistic students also typically require orthopedists and physical therapists, she said.
One in 68 children in the U.S. has been diagnosed with autism, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The cause of the spike in cases has been speculated to be everything from vaccine and herbicide exposure to greater public awareness of the disorder.
BCSD enrolled 64 new autistic students last year, bringing its total to 451. In 2002, it had just 47. And while 64 new students may not sound like a significant increase, in special education, where class sizes are kept to about 10 students per room and each student has specific needs, it hits school budgets hard.
June 24, 2017, Toronto Star: Violence in Ontario schools prompts call for more front-line staff
Their kids have witnessed “vulgar” verbal attacks, seen teachers chased down the hall, even assaulted, and say too-frequent lockdowns at their elementary school have made students anxious.
A group of Oshawa parents says the situation has grown so out of hand at Beau Valley Public School that their children sometimes don’t want to go to class. And they are calling on the Durham public board and province for changes to help curb such disturbing incidents across all boards — and better support students with special needs who need more support workers with them in class. ...
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario is urging the government to fund more staff this fall — from educational assistants to social workers to counsellors to psychologists — as well as implement better training and reporting procedures.
President Sam Hammond acknowledged the government has made “some progress on these issues, (but) there is much more work to be done . . . We’re talking about the need for more services to address children’s mental health, as well as the need to ensure that funding for special needs is also allocated to front-line support services to help ensure the success and well being of every student.” ...
One special education teacher in the Toronto board said he’s happy with ministry initiatives on youth mental health, but what’s needed is early intervention. Integrating students with behavioural issues into mainstream classes is the goal, he said, but they must be properly supported or their learning, and that of their classmates, suffers.
June 23, 2017, National Post (Canada): In rare display of unity, opposition hammers Trudeau on ‘cold-hearted’ autism funding decision
....As it stands, he said, Canada doesn’t even have reliable statistics about the prevalence of autism, because health services are delivered provincially and can vary from province to province. ...
Tom Frazier, chief science officer at Autism Speaks, said U.S. statistics show the prevalence of autism has increased significantly in the last 25 years, partly as people have children later and as the rate of survival of premature infants increases.
Lake, whose 21-year-old son, Jaden, is autistic, said he worries about the options for the growing number of adults with autism, and he plans to keep fighting for the partnership.
“What happens when we’re gone?” he said. “Will we have a society that cares for our kids like we care for our kids?”
May 31, 2017, Global News (Canada): Violence in Durham Region classrooms has seen teachers bitten, punched and kicked
The union representing elementary teachers in Durham Region says violence in some classrooms is hurting its members, which has parents and officials calling for more supports.
Durham Local Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario held a meeting in Oshawa Tuesday evening entitled “Safe schools for all” to discuss increased violence in schools, the education funding formula and special education. ...
Mastin said the union is aware of an “extremely large number” of student incidents and instances involving students and teachers.
“We’re talking about everything from biting, from kicking to pinching, all the way to grabbing hair, smashing heads on the desk. If you can imagine it, it’s happening,” he said.
The meeting comes after Global News heard from educators and parents across Ontario about their concerns over integrated classrooms and supports being offered to children with disabilities.
“I was punched in the head multiple times in one week,” Jennifer said, adding some of the children who initiated physical contact have been as young as seven or eight years old.
Jennifer works in an integrated classroom where students with special needs and those without are in the same class.
June 23, 2017, NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth: Community of Support for Young Adults With Autism Moves Forward
It's estimated that 50,000 people with autism age of out of the school system every year and that 85 percent of adults with autism are unemployed.
June 23, 2017, London (Ontario) Free Press: Special-ed funding, demand on the rise | The London Free Press
June 23, 2017, Chalkbeat.org: In first for Aurora, charter school to run center for special education students | Chalkbeat
May 31, 2017, Michigan Live: New $885K Ottawa ISD facility serves growing special needs population
May 11, 2017, Morningside, Maryland: Baltimore City Schools Spends More Than One-Quarter Of Its Budget For Special Needs Programs
April 11, 2017, KELO Sioux Falls, SD: More Teachers Needed For Growing Special Education Enrollment
Jan 23, 2017, Chicago Tribune: Critics: CPS Special Ed Policy Is ‘Delay And Deny’
Jan 19, 2017, Texas Tribune: Expecting spike in special ed students, advocates push for better services
2016 New Jersey School Boards Association: Meeting a Growing Need for Special Education