Between 2008 and 2012, the number of autistic children enrolled in Arlington Public Schools’ special education program increased by more than 50 percent — a trend that matches a national increase in autism diagnoses.
There were 276 autistic special education students in 2008. By 2012, enrollment had increased to 421, a 52.5 percent jump.
“While it seems alarming, it actually reflects the growth we are seeing in autism nationally,” APS spokeswoman Linda Erdos said of the increase. According to a government study that was released last month, the number of school age children with autism has risen 72 percent since 2007, and now stands at about 1 in 50 children ages 6 to 17.
APS “has an excellent history of services for students with autism,” Erdos said. While APS tries to integrate autistic students with the general student body, the school system does have special classes for autistic students who need extra educational support. APS is working to continue to find ways to better serve autistic students, we’re told.
On Tuesday, April 30, APS and the Arlington Special Education Advisory Committee (ASEAC) will be hosting a “Family Information Night” that will “present new initiatives and assessment tools that are designed to improve teaching for students with autism and others who learn differently.”
The event is taking place at the Arlington Education Center (1426 N. Quincy Street) between 7:00 and 9:00 p.m.
Among those expected to speak at the event are Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), Del. Patrick Hope (D), APS Assistant Superintendent for Student Services Dr. Brenda Wilks and Steven Celmer, from Virginia Commonwealth University’s Autism Center for Excellence.
Moran, who visited to Barcroft Elementary for World Autism Awareness Day last month, is expected to update families on his AUTISM Educators Act, which seeks to create a five-year pilot program that would help to train general education teachers who work with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
The bill was referred to Education and the Workforce Committee in the House of Representatives earlier this month.