Note: One of the lessons of Covid is that the planet - the entire planet - can and will react and make radical changes if scared into, told to, preached at, warned of something that seems dire. Why is it that autism has barely moved the needle despite our two decades of warnings? It's as if someone - someones - declared that autism was never to be shown as a problem but instead as a version of neurodiversity. Cure was disallowed. Treatment limited only to behavioral and educational models. Grants only for genetics studies. Anne Dachel has been writing about the explosion in the need for special education services for years. Her site Loss of Brain Trust has thousands of reports.
By Anne Dachel
This past week we were again overwhelmed by stories from England along with ones from Ireland, the U.S. and Australia, even Israel—all of which describe never-ending increases in students with disabilities, specifically ones with autism, in their schools.
This is now the pattern. Numbers will only get worse. There is nothing we can do to stop it. We need to spend more and more.
Here are a few of the very concerning comments found in these stories.
Scottsdale, AZ: Bierman ABA Autism Center announced the opening of its first Arizona location in Scottsdale.
Amarillo, TX: The opportunity school has a full waiting list and is currently hiring for teachers to help more children.
Texas: Texas State University and Action Behavior Centers (ABC), a leading provider of applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy for children with autism, have entered into a strategic partnership through which ABC’s employees will have access to a customized graduate ABA degree curriculum at Texas State tailored to meet the growing need for qualified board-certified behavior analysts (BCBAs) serving children on the autism spectrum.
Colorado: Some state legislators and educators fear, however, that even with the increased investment, the state doesn’t come close to meeting [special needs] students’ needs….
But local school districts take on the majority of the funding burden. When faced with budget shortfalls, they have to figure out ways to pay for special education, like increasing the number of students with disabilities assigned to a single teacher.
Jacksonville, FL: The [autism] school was founded in 1995 by a group of Jacksonville-area parents and business leaders who saw the need….
"There is no other place for a lot of families. … They've been at other schools and not been successful," he said.
Staten Island, NY: A new Staten Island charter school opened to students for the first time this fall for the 2021-2022 academic year, offering an inclusive environment for both general education students and students with special needs, particularly those on the autism spectrum….
Ireland: Families and those working in schools would tell you that provision is still nowhere near adequate in terms of addressing [special ed] students’ needs.
UK: The shocking reports detail how vulnerable children and their families are left to fall into crisis before getting help. Youngsters are waiting more than two years for support in some areas, with delays exacerbated by the pandemic, Ofsted found….
Of the eight areas visited for the first time, seven were told to produce a written statement of action because of “significant areas of weakness in the local area’s practice”….
‘Too many children reach crisis point’…
In Richmond upon Thames in west London, another area found to be failing, children were waiting “too long” for autism assessments. Covid had led to “further delays in diagnosis”.
In Warwickshire, waiting times for autism assessments and services for those awaiting assessments or support were one of five “serious weaknesses” exposed in a September report.
While autism was identified early in primary school, children often failed to get the required support until secondary school. It left “too many families … struggling to cope”....
UK: “We have a lot of Send (special educational needs and disabilities) children and they cannot have access to the really important services that we need….
“A lot of nurseries are at risk of closure. We are seeing more and more children come through our doors with high levels of Send, especially over Covid, they haven’t had that early intervention.”…
UK: Hayley Harding, 38, who co-founded the group with three other mothers, said too many local authorities are not providing support to which disabled children are entitled….
UK: A former Norfolk teacher, who fears there are "huge and unforgiveable" shortfalls in provision for children with special educational needs, is to hand deliver a letter calling for action to Downing Street….
He said there have also been instances where the process of providing education, health and care plans for children with special educational needs has taken more than two years….
Swindon, UK: “While we are seeing more and more children exhibiting complex needs, we see cutting resources….”
Lewes, UK: The council says the move comes as the centre’s numbers have been under capacity since 2019/20, while at the same time there has been an increase in the numbers of children with a “primary need” of autism spectrum conditions….
Wales, UK: A former school boarding house will be converted into supported living flats for people with ‘challenging behaviour’ – despite residents objecting….
“The residents are to be supervised 24/7, and if they are allowed out of their apartments, they are often supervised two to one. They are kept secure. They have to be because we find the residents have serious challenging behaviour. That is behaviour where the physical safety of the person or others is placed in serious jeopardy.
“There is no disagreement that these facilities are required, but government guidance acknowledges they should be placed in places where they will not be a nuisance to neighbours.”
…We look at the danger to others, but they are more a danger to themselves, and they’ve got to go somewhere.
Birmingham, UK: The government is sending a commissioner to take over special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) services in Birmingham, after the city council failed to remedy “significant weaknesses”.
In the first intervention of its kind,…
Portsmouth, UK: Thinking Schools Academy Trust announced the Rainbow Fish Inclusion Centre open on Friday, October 15.
This space will provide state-of-the-art facilities for children with special educational needs (SEN) and/or disabilities (SEND) across the city.
Lewes, UK: Plans to open up a special education centre in Lewes to a wider range of pupils have been given the go ahead by a senior county councillor….
The council says the move comes as the centre’s numbers have been under capacity since 2019/20, while at the same time there has been an increase in the numbers of children with a “primary need” of autism spectrum conditions….
Enfield, UK: Enfield Council is looking to develop new school buildings for children with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) to meet growing demand.
The council is drawing up a viability study to examine the potential of four sites in Enfield that could be used to build Send school buildings.
According to a council report, there has been a “significant increase” in Send provision during recent years, with the town hall putting in extra resources and commissioning designated units within mainstream schools….
But the report adds that because of a “limited capacity to expand existing SEN schools, the council wants to establish “brand new provision on a scale that would make a significant contribution to addressing demand”.
Basingstoke, UK: A new school in Basingstoke which caters for children with autism has opened….
We are thrilled to welcome them…
Lake Macquarie, Australia: A new independent school is set be built at Lake Macquarie as demand grows in the Hunter for autism-specific education.
With a long waiting list for places at its existing sites, Aspect is hoping to be able to reach out to more families….
“All of our Send schools are pretty much at capacity. We have extended them all, pretty much, to this point.”
Here are statistics that are randomly put out there without explanation:
Colorado: Colorado’s budget for the current fiscal year includes approximately $220 million for students with disabilities. That’s on top of the state’s $198 million in federal grant funds for special education and early intervention…
Ireland: Funding is provided for 1,165 additional special needs assistants to provide support to children with special educational needs, bringing the total number of SNAs to almost 19,200.
Minster Foley said: I am delighted that we could secure the largest budget for special education that we have ever had. This will include an unprecedented 1165 new SNAs, bringing the total number of SNAs in Ireland to a record of over 19,000. “We are also adding almost 1,000 new teachers in special education in mainstream schools, special classes and special schools….
The special education funding for 2022 is over a quarter of the current expenditure budget for the Department of Education. This represents an increase of over 50 per cent since 2011….
As a result, the number of special classes will be the highest ever, at just over 2,400 in schools throughout the country…
Rotherham, UK: The [special] school currently has 159 pupils enrolled – above its capacity of 120 pupils. A new secondary and post 16 site of Newman School will be created at the old Dinnington College site, which will provide space for 180 pupils.
It is hoped having the specialist school in Rotherham will help the 290 children who have been assessed as needing SEMH education in the last 18 months, as a lack of provision means they often have to travel to out-of-borough placement….
Portsmouth, UK: The centre is part of Portsmouth City Council’s £3.5 million [$4.8M] investment initiative to provide inclusive education in the city. Eight places at the centre are being funded by the local authority, which will grow to 16 places next academic year.
- Yorkshire, UK: Due to the rate of increase in identifying children with [Special Educational Needs and Disabilities] SEND in the County, the number of children and young people with Education and Health Care Plans (EHCP) has more than doubled since 2014 to about 3,700.
This growth is expected to continue, with the number of children and young people with an Educational Health Care Plan expected to be more than 4,100 by 2025.
Bristol, UK: Following Ofsted recommendations, Bristol City Council plans to invest £16.5 million [$23M] over the next five years to make schools more inclusive for pupils with SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) and other ‘at risk’ groups….
"We have also committed over £28m [$39M] of investment across the city to deliver much needed additional special school places and increased the number of specialist provision placements for the autumn 2021 term by 82."Work is also continuing with education settings in Bristol to deliver up to a total of 250 new placements over the coming academic year.''
Enfield, UK: The report reveals the proportion of Enfield pupils on education, health and care plans (EHCPs) – which provide extra support for those with special educational needs – has increased at a higher rate than the national average and grew from 3,262 to 3,783 during the past year.
It adds that more than 600 children are currently being educated out of the borough, which is putting pressure on budgets....
The council also hopes to raise more money to invest in Send provision by selling off vacant school caretakers’ houses. It is investing £1m [$1.4M] in speech, language and communication needs and autism to enable early intervention and reduce the number of EHCPs....
Basingstoke, UK: The Austen academy in Shakespeare Road has 128 students aged from 5 through to 16 and is the first school in the area designed specifically for children with the [autism] diagnosis. …
Israel: The number of Israeli children registered for special-education classes this school year increased 50 percent from last year, as the number of students mainstreamed into general educational settings declined by 20 percent….
The number of Israeli students diagnosed with disabilities has been growing every year.
As of this year, some 296,000 children are diagnosed as disabled out of the 2.5 million Israeli children aged from kindergarten through 12th grade. The percentage growth of diagnoses is outpacing population growth.
About half of the children have been diagnosed with a learning disability of some kind, while the remainder have disabilities including autism, mental disorders, physical disabilities, intellectual disabilities and hearing or vision disorders….
Geraldton, Australia: The spaces, which include a portable work pod and a relaxation room, are part of the Geraldton Lighthouse Project; a $2.6 million [$2M] partnership between four Geraldton schools, aimed at improving educational and social outcomes for students with autism through tailor-made programs and facilities….
More than 200 children with autism are currently enrolled in public schools in Geraldton, with more students waiting to be assessed….
Nine schools in Geraldton have modified areas for students with autism, with some utilising large spaces for sensory activities and therapy programs….