Autism's rise tests schools

Posted on Jan 15, 2009 in Autism

Growing numbers require districts to have specialists in many educational areas.

COLUMBIA S.C. education officials say the growing number of students with autism is creating a heavy demand for school services.

The number of students listed with autism as their leading disorder has more than doubled in five years, from 1,283 in 2003 to 2,685 in 2007, according to the state Education Department. Figures for 2008 were incomplete.

The State newspaper in Columbia reported Friday that dealing with more students with such a wide range of abilities means more specialists are needed to create individualized plans.

“I think it’s just such a difference of where students are on the spectrum that it can be a challenge to make sure that all their needs are met,” said Alisha Carey, autism specialist for Lexington District 1. “What I worry about is if I can’t figure out why a child is doing something.”

Autistic students require districts to have specialists in several areas, including behavior, speech, psychology and physical therapy.

Stoxen said the numbers the state collects likely understate the number of children with autism-related issues.