I read this article and thought: is this something that a real parent would do? Let’s suppose that this is the case; it would involve an extremely well-planned and connected conspiracy that involves the parent, pediatrician, likely a developmental neurologist, and service providers such as Early Intervention teachers, Speech and Language therapists, among others. Conspiracy theorists will argue that this absolutely happens; why else are the Autism numbers increasing? Others will argue that the numbers increase because pediatricians and teachers are better versed at recognizing the characteristic traits of Autism, moreso than in generations past.
Another check and balance of the diagnosis is that children on the Spectrum are constantly evaluated to see whether more services (or less) are warranted; most school districts are under the same financial scrutiny as any other business entity and more often than not seek to limit supplemental services that parents fight for. These services are based on continual evaluation of progress and mastery of tasks.
Children on the Spectrum enrolled in Special Education classes are not in an advantageous position. Some parents may see the 6-1-1 and 12-1-1 configurations and see that as desireable, as compared to typical class sizes of 20+ students to 1 teacher. But the curriculum and pace of the Special Education class is not anywhere near that of the typical class, so any perceived gains made by the smaller ratios is erased by the curriculum covered. Students on the Spectrum are constantly trying to catch up.
Some of these same conspiracy theorists will argue that if an older child is diagnosed, for example, with Asperger’s Syndrome, it will afford them with extra time to take tests, among other ‘reasonable accomodations’. Federal laws, specifically the Americans with Disabilities Act, which defines such accomodations, is not specific to Autism; speech and language delays, physical disabilities, other learning disabilities are also included. These accomodations do not take into account a student’s intellectual capacity per se; after giving a student an additional 50% more time to take a test for example, the student is graded on the the same criteria along with typical students.
As prevalent as Autism is, it is not the norm for children. As difficult as it is for parents and families to accept this initial diagnosis (and universally, it is a difficult pill for parents to swallow) I find it incredulous that parents would conspire to achieve it unnecessarily. This premise does not significantly explain the rise in Autism numbers: the numbers are real. In my opinion, some so-called experts are not.
Sociology professor Frank Furedi said this partly explains the latest Government figures that say the number of schoolchildren who are classified as being autistic has soared by 56 per cent in the last five years.
There are now 61,570 schoolchildren in the state-funded sector that have been recorded as having some kind of autistic spectrum disorder and they make up almost one percent of the entire school population.
Just five years ago, the number of children classified as being autistic was just 39,465 and they accounted for just 0.5 per cent of the school population.
“It is unlikely to be a genuine unprecedented increase in autism, rather an institutional use of this condition to allow people to get easier access to resources.
“This activity ends up trivialising what is a very serious condition for some children.”
The Government’s definition of autism is a lifelong condition that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people, and how a person makes sense of the world around them.
The term is used to cover a variety of autistic conditions including Asperger’s syndrome. Data from the Department of Education shows that in 2006 autistic children made up just one in every 200 pupils.
The latest figures put that ratio at one in every 125 children. Autism can cause learning problems for children.
Around 20 per cent of autistic pupils have been suspended from school more than once and around 50 per cent say they have been bullied at school.
Nick Seaton, a spokesman for the Campaign for Real Education, said: “Obviously children with autism need special treatment.
“But the rapid increase does suggest that perhaps the figures should be looked at again.
“Children should not be classified as having special needs too easily. The rise should be examined closely because it has a knock-on effect for teachers, schools and the pupils themselves.”
Caroline Hattersley, Head of Information, Advice and Advocacy at The National Autistic Society, said: “A recent NHS study revealed that the prevalence of autism is 1 in 100 and that the same rate applies for adults as for children.
“We know that with accurate diagnosis the right support can be put in place so that children with autism can reach their full potential.
“It’s very likely that all teachers and school staff will come into contact with children with autism at some stage during their teaching career, so it’s vital that they receive quality training and strategies to support these children in the classroom.”