Student Autism Rates Increasing

The prevalence of students identified with autism receiving K-12 special education services has been consistently increasing over the past fifteen years. However, data from the U.S. Department of Education indicates that students with autism are less likely to participate in general education classes compared to other students with disabilities.

Throughout the 2022-23 academic year, approximately 13% of students with disabilities were identified with autism, a notable increase of 8 percentage points from the 2008-09 school year, when only around 5% of students in special education services were recognized as having autism.

In terms of inclusivity, only 41% of students with autism spend 80% or more of their school day in general education classes, contrasting with the 67% of all students with disabilities who are included in such settings.

These statistical insights were shared by the Education Department’s Office of Special Education Programs as part of the Fast Facts data summary leading up to April’s Autism Awareness Month, culminating in Autism Acceptance Day on April 2. The White House and other entities have embraced the rebranding of these events, emphasizing the significance of Autism Acceptance Month.

“Autistic individuals routinely encounter unnecessary hurdles in accessing employment, healthcare, while children confront bullying and educational obstacles,” stated the White House on April 1.

The escalation in the number of students with autism availing special education services mirrors the overall surge in autism diagnoses among children in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 1 in 36 children aged 8 in 2020 were diagnosed with autism, compared to 1 in 44 in 2018 and 1 in 150 in 2000.

By the numbers
The proportion of students with disabilities, aged 5-21, in California identified with autism during the 2022-23 academic year, marking the highest state percentage. Montana boasts the lowest rate at 5.8%.

Total disciplinary removals per 100 students with autism in 2021-22, showcasing a lower frequency compared to the 26 per 100 total disciplinary removals for all students with disabilities.

Percentage of boys and young men engaged in special education services, aged 5-21, identified with autism in 2022-23. In the broader context of all disabilities, boys and men represented 65.2% of the special education population, while girls and women accounted for 34.8%.

Students with autism who received a regular high school diploma in 2021-22. Overall, 73.6% of students with disabilities obtained a regular diploma.

The percentage of Asian students identified with autism during the 2022-23 academic year. Asian students with autism are more frequently identified compared to the general population of students with disabilities.

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