I added a number of stories to Loss of Brain Trust this past week which testify to the impact disabled children are having on schools, especially in Britain.
What is a continual mystery to me is why no one questions why this is happening. They just keep calling for more funding, more services in mainstream schools and more exclusive special schools, specifically ones for children with autism.
Adults are often seen in photos with the stories. They’re typically smiling as they cut the ribbon for yet another autism school, built so students won’t have to be sent to costly out-of-county schools.
A recent story from Kent in southeast England is but one example. The title reads, Life Skills Manor School, for children with autism, has opened in Sandwich, and it’s about a school for 22 students that “hopes to expand to 46
pupils by September 2023.”
Hopes to expand? I’m sure these smiling adults are very well-intentioned, but these stories about autism numbers are really scary and should have everyone’s attention. Questions should be asked. Why are there always more affected children? When is it going to stop? Why are they’re never any answers?
Seriously, no one anywhere is talking about these issues. There is absolutely no alarm over what’s happening.
The story is brief, but we’re told that autism is a big part of special education in Kent.
Autistic Spectrum Disorder remains the most common primary need type with 41.2% of children and young people with an Education and Health Care Plan having ASD identified as their primary need.
Not only that, but more affected kids are coming.
According to the Kent Commissioning Plan 2021-2025, the need for specialist placements in Kent is increasing each year by 14.8%.
Clearly this is a new phenomenon or there would already be accommodations “to meet the needs of children that are not coping in mainstream education.”
There is something about the word AUTISM that silences everyone.
Imagine the response if we were talking about children who are blind.
If we were building schools for the blind and talking about a 15% increase annually, the public would demand to know why so many kids can’t see. People would want it stopped.
Autism is permanently the mysterious illness that we’ve convinced ourselves has always been around—we just called it something else. Of course the obvious question is: Where were they back in the 1980s and 1990s and early 2000s like we see today?
Britain, like the U.S., has had laws requiring local schools to educate disabled children for the last 50 years. So where were the large numbers of children with autism and other serious behavioral problems?
Sometimes I feel as though readers of Loss of Brain Trust and Age of Autism are the only people in the world who realize this is happening.
The event in Kent is typical of places across England. The stories from the Isle of Wight and Bedfordshire below both talk about it being a “national problem.”
Isle of Wight: $1.8M SPED overspend
…there could still be a gap of £1.33 million [$1.8M] funding gap for special education needs or disabilities (SEND) pupils.
…the Island was not alone in having the funding shortfall.
Bedfordshire: Dramatic increase in SPED numbers....funding in the red.
"We've seen a significant increase in demand for educational health and care needs assessments.
"That's resulted in extra children with educational health and care plans (EHCPs) with a knock-on impact over the provision of the places for young people," he explained.
"And then that has an effect on the budget. In the last paper, we forecast a £2.9m overspend. Now it's looking like a £4.3m [$5.9M] overspend, with a worse case scenario of as high as £6m [$8M] by the end of the year. …
"The number of CBC maintained EHCPs for pupils in reception to year 14 in autumn 2021 was more than 2,100.
"The forecasts are for an extra 900 by January 2025 (or 40 per cent higher), and an additional 400 by January 2030 (a further 13 per cent more)."
Mr Fraser said: "We've also seen a big swing in the amount of money being provided to special schools and top-up small schools because of the increasing demand. All this money is going on meeting children's needs.
"It's a national problem. …
Widnes: New special school for “up to 64 pupils.”
Worcestershire: Council proposes 4% tax hike to pay for special services.
Mansfield: Special school for kids with “anxiety or behavioral issues” “a maximum of four students, two staff” per classroom.
Surrey: 7 year old with autism has $200/day taxi ride to special school.
Surrey: Autistic girl waits 2 yrs for SPED plan.
Herefordshire: Council facing $717,000 SPED overspend.
Special schools “are full”
Tameside: Special needs services “heavily criticized” with “excessive” waiting lists.
Worcestershire: 5 year old with autism gets only 2 ½ hrs/day in school
And finally in the U.S. is a story from Loudoun, VA where an interventionist who works with autistic kids says this about the leap in the rate from one in 54 kids with autism to one in 44 “: ‘It’s fascinating.’
The demand for therapies and services, like many early-childhood fields, is high. According to Johanna Van Doren-Jackson, senior manager for Loudoun County’s early intervention program, Infant and Toddler Connection, referral rates from pediatricians are through the roof. …
…there is no consensus among experts as to why ASD rates are burgeoning among youth. “It’s fascinating,” Van Doren-Jackson said. “The field has changed. It was about parenting. Now it’s seen as possibly genetic.”…
That remark about autism being genetic flies in the face of the sentence below her photo:
Johanna Van Doren-Jackson, senior manager for Infant and Toddler Connection, called the increased prevalence of autism spectrum disorders among children “very concerning.”
Dramatic increases every year or two are impossible with a genetic disorder.
Is that the best we can do? I have lots of other words that I’d use to describe what’s happening, and they’re a lot more appropriate than ‘very concerning.’
Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism.