We’ve calmly and unquestioningly watched as autism became a normal and acceptable part of childhood over the last twenty plus years. Everywhere in the world the response has been the same.
Everyone also knows it’s not just autism plaguing more and more of our children as there is now an endless litany of disorder labels regularly assigned to kids. Add this crisis to the fact that more than half of our children are chronically ill and it’s clear we’re on an accelerating and unstoppable downward spiral.
No increase in the rate of anything has ever caused alarm or even real concern from doctors, health officials, legislators or educators. No one demands we find out what’s going on and reverse the rates. It sounds insane, but we’re routinely told that none of this is really a problem AND we can expect it to get worse.
Recently I come across an article published in Australia that proves my point: THE NUMBERS WILL BURY US AND WE WILL DO NOTHING TO STOP IT.
On September 2, 2020 the Sydney Morning Herald published the story, Schools must prepare for 50 per cent rise in students with disabilities: report
Speaking about schools in Australia the opening warned of what’s coming.
The number of students with disabilities in the public education system is predicted to grow by 50 per cent in the decade to 2027, and they will need twice as many specialist teachers and thousands more support classrooms.
Autism diagnoses are a big factor.
The 2018 report found the overall number of students with a disability could increase from between 110,000 and 130,000 in 2017 to between 160,000 and 200,000 by 2027 if policy settings stayed the same and diagnoses — particularly of autism — continued at the same rate. General enrolments would increase by 17 per cent.
The number of students with autism in NSW state schools has been growing by almost 15 per cent per year.
Any thinking person would want to know WHY. What’s happening to our children? Why is it going to get worse? What can we do to stop it?
Incredibly reporter Jordan Baker didn’t discuss any of these questions in her story. Ms Baker wasn’t worried. She only talked about the need for more special schools, more training for teachers—all of which means lots more spending.
Six new special needs schools will also have to be built every year if diagnosis and enrolment rates continue and policy settings do not change, modelling by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) for the NSW Department of Education found.
The confidential report, obtained under freedom of information laws, prompted mental health experts to call for a major investment in disability support staff, training and resources for schools, saying teachers are not equipped to respond….
Baker sounded an alarm about the need for huge increases in services.
Under a status quo scenario, the specialist teaching workforce would need to increase from 12,000 to between 19,000 and 23,000 in 2027, the BCG report said. However, such teachers were in short supply; only 56 per cent of learning and support roles in mainstream schools were filled permanently.
Unless more students were taught in mainstream classrooms, the number of support classrooms would need to increase from 2050 to up to 5400 over the decade, while the number of classrooms in Schools for Special Purposes (SSPs) would need to grow from 870 to between 1400 and 1600….
The president of the federation, Angelo Gavrielatos, said the number of students with a disability had already increased by 500 per cent since 2002.
Teachers simply aren’t prepared for what’s coming.
"Teachers and principals are not adequately supported to meet the growing complexity of student needs," he said.
Professor Hickie said students with disabilities should be in mainstream schools where possible, but they needed significant support.
"The expectation is that teachers and normal classrooms will have capacity to respond," he said. "Without a lot of help, they won’t."…
"Schools are really, really struggling with these kids," he said. "They don’t know how to manage these quite severe behaviour problems."…
Baker did make one vague reference to autism that made it sound like this is all just the result of better recognition.
Vicki Gibbs from Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) said diagnosis rates in children have climbed since the late 2000s when criteria changed and awareness grew.
She believed growth would slow, although psychology professor Ian Hickie disagreed. "We are on the upswing of the curve of awareness of [neurodevelopmental problems in children]," Professor Hickie said. Rates of childhood anxiety and ADHD diagnoses were also rising.
Get the message? Only the diagnoses are rising, not real numbers. Kids have always been like this. We just never noticed.
Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism