By Anne Dachel
One thing the stories on my website testify to is the normalization of disabled children. We calmly accept it if our children are labeled having ADD, ADHD, OCD, dyslexia, autism, speech delay and any of the related disorders in the DSM 5.
We have normalized all of this. We’re way past the time when anyone seriously cares why these conditions are increasing so dramatically among our kids. Research regularly finds a possible association with genetics. The focus is always on intervention. We really pride ourselves on how we provide for special needs students in our schools.
With COVID the main feature in U.S. reporting right now, we have to look to Britain to see this really playing out as I show on Loss of Brain Trust.
$1.3 billion has been added to the special education funding this year for England and Wales alone.
The stories amazingly come with photos of smiling government officials and educators. Clearly no one is in a panic over these increases (which they’re always talking about) or the massive amounts of money being spent. And no one ever assures us that this is the end of the increases, in fact we regularly hear about projections of even more special needs students in the coming years.
Here are just some of the statements recently in the news.
Wales: Welsh Government announced that £18m [$24M] will be made available to provide extra support for children and young people with ALN [Additional Learning Needs]…
£8m [$11M] will be allocated to schools, nurseries, local authorities and Pupil Referral Units to move learners from the old Special Educational Needs (SEN) system to the new ALN system, as the roll-out of the Additional Learning Needs Act continues.
Lancashire: This 2022/23 dedication schools grant (DSG) allocation includes £869,940,171 for mainstream schools, £158,303,915 [$210M] for the special educational needs block and £80,654,601 for early years education. …
Nottinghamshire: Local MP Brendan Clarke-Smith is proud of the increase in school spending, including the $1.3B, “a record 13 percent increase on this year” in special education funding.
Essex: A special school is expanding.
Ramsden Hall Academy works with up to 100 secondary-age and Year 6 male students who have an Educational Health Care Plan (EHCP) for Social Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) needs.
Works included the construction of a brand new three-storey residential block which will provide beds for 40 students, bolstering the academy’s ability to develop the pupil’s independent living skills….
Norfolk: The headteacher of a new special school feels ‘lucky and honoured.’
The school will cater for students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) from across Norfolk. …
To begin with it will welcome 48 pupils, before the number rises to 100.
Suffolk: Multi-millions for special ed.
More than £6 million [$8,2M] is to be made available for developing further special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) school places in Suffolk.
In its proposed budget for 2022, Suffolk County Council’s Conservative administration revealed it is planning to spend between £6.1m and £6.5m as part of a review in the spring term.
That will be phase two of a capital programme which has so far seen £45m [$61M] of investment to create 861 places….
“We know it is a priority for Suffolk, we have heard that message loud and clear.”
The £45m [$61M] SEND plan has used a mix of new special schools and specialist units attached to mainstream schools. That aims to help pupils into education settings appropriate for their needs, and reduce out-of-county placements.
The first 259 places were delivered for the 2020/21 academic year and 334 places this year. The remaining places will be split with 158 in 2022/23 and 110 in 2023/24.
Demand for specialist places has continued to increase,…
Devon: More money for special ed.
Schools across Devon will receive millions of pounds of extra funding in 2022, it was announced today.
Torbay, Devon and Plymouth combined will get an extra £68m [$92B] as part of a £4 billion [$5.4B] Government funding boost across the country….
A record £1 billion[$1.3B] extra will be spent to support pupils with special educational needs and disabilities.
Okehampton: New autism school is part of plan for 300 more special ed places.
The Promise School in Okehampton will cater for up to 100 primary and secondary pupils who have social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) difficulties and are on the autism spectrum. It will be run by the Dartmoor Multi Academy Trust.
The school forms part of a £22m [$30M] programme by Devon County Council to provide 300 extra places for vulnerable children with special needs across the county. The new building is expected to be completed in the spring of 2023 but the school will open to its first pupils in September 2022 using temporary accommodation….
Cumbria: Story on special education announces over and over that there are more disabled kids.
Calls to meet increasing need for special education support in Cumbria.
DEMAND is growing for special educational needs support in Cumbria,…
…work is underway to meet the increasing demand in Cumbria.
And demand is on the rise….
…the huge body of work to meet demand and increase support for young people with autism and other disabilities….
"So there's a real increase in children and young people…
…there is a high demand for places in Cumbria's specialist schools.
"We are seeing parents requesting more special school places…
There is a lack of places.
Councillor Christine Bowditch said that the issues around SEN need to be addressed. Cllr Bowditch said: "In my experience as champion for autism, 100 per cent of parents who contact me about their children's education, it is to say that they desperately want their child out of a mainstream school and into specialist provision where they will get what they consider to be a proper education.
Still, no one is in the least interested in why DEMAND HAS INCREASED, and that’s the real problem.
News is the same for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Fife, Scotland: A Fife mother says hundreds of families are struggling because of the two-and-a-half year wait for an autism diagnosis.
At the beginning of December, 1,085 young people were waiting for an appointment to get an autism diagnosis, with the average waiting time between referral and first appointment standing at two-and-a-half-years.
In Ireland they’re working on a law to provide school places for “hundreds of autistic students.”
Hundreds of autistic students could be provided with appropriate school places "by September" if the Minister for Education, and the Minister of State for Special Education, used the full legislative powers available to them.
That’s according to Graham Manning, an ASD class coordinator in Cork, who told the Irish Examiner the demand for classes exceeds the number of available places each year.
This year, he is already seeing “dozens of applications for single-digit places."
“We have the exact same thing every year. We hear about new schools opening up [ASD classes] but they no way keep pace with demand by any stretch of the imagination.”
On top of this, year on year, the gap between the number of special classes at primary, and autism classes at secondary, is growing, he added.
According to Mr Manning, there are children in Cork applying for places in schools more than 50 km away from their homes, meaning they would commute 100 km daily, past schools in their local area.
“There are also hundreds of students, perhaps more, who have a recommendation of needing a special class place but they are in mainstream schools because they couldn’t get a place in an autism class.”…
Students have it "in writing" that they are entitled to a place in a special or autism class, he said, and this is not being provided by the ministers. "We are talking about hundreds of students who are inappropriately placed, that if a special class was set up they’d have an appropriate place.”
A spokesman for the Department of Education said Section 37A is not “the standard way" that new special classes are created. “Instead, the vast majority of new special classes result from proactive collaboration between the NCSE and local schools.”
This year, 269 new classes were opened through this, he added. …
Cork currently has 227 primary schools and 81 post-primary schools that have autism classes. This year, 44 new special classes were established in Cork, and an additional 42 new special school places were created by the establishment of the new Carrigaline Community Special School and the expansion of St Mary’s Special School in Rochestown. …
Northern Ireland is in the same situation.
New figures from the Department of Health show a huge disparity in waiting times for autism spectrum disorder treatment across Northern Ireland's five health trusts.
Foyle SDLP MLA Sinéad McLaughlin, who requested the figures, said she was deeply concerned by how long children are having to wait between being diagnosed with autism and getting professional help.
A total of 234 children have been waiting for treatment for more than three months. The Northern trust was the worst performer, with 208 children waiting more than 13 weeks for treatment, according to figures from the end of September.
One lone story pointed to where this is all going. On January 7th a piece entitled, Parents of adult autistic children face hard questions about their futures, made it clear that things are not going to get better for these special needs kids when they age out of school.
The following questions were asked: What do we do now that they’re adults? What’s going to happen? Who’s going to take care of them when I pass? Where are they going to be?
Of course no one can answer these. No one seriously asks them because it would lead to the obvious: Why can’t autistic young adults go where autistic adults are currently living?
Somehow we’re supposed to believe that autism has always been around like we’re seeing in our children, we just called it something else. The tidal wave of autistic young adults that are coming will expose the truth. There is no way to avoid it.
Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism.