Investing In Children With Special Needs
If you have concerns about the way your vehicle is functioning, you might take it to a trusted and skilled mechanic for a diagnostic and plan for repair. If you have concerns about your health, you may schedule an appointment with your doctor, trusting that an exam, labs and/or medical testing will reveal a diagnosis that may result in a scribe to regain your health. Likewise, if a parent is concerned about their child’s development, a parent should take their child to a developmental specialist or an educational specialist that is trained in diagnosing developmental delays and that can assist in writing goals to promote academic development.
Not all students with a diagnosis of Autism are eligible for special education services, but if educational eligibility is identified, a team comes together to write a plan. The team specifically identifies the areas of need and designs a plan to assist the child in making gains in areas that are delayed, targeting how the child’s needs will be addressed in an educational setting.
The importance of early identification and intervention is paramount, especially when it comes to Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disability characterized by deficits in communication, social skills, and behavior that can span a “spectrum” of symptoms—from mild to severe. The reason this is significant is that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the number of children identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder is 1 in 68. Autism is 4.5 times more common among boys (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189). The California Department of Education reports that approximately 12.6 percent of students receiving special education services in California have a primary disability of Autism. In Stanislaus County, it is reportedly near the same percentage.
The National Education Association (NEA) and California Legislative Analyst’s office estimates that the average cost per student receiving special education services is more than double the cost of a student that is not receiving special education services. Many people may wonder, since we hear how expensive special education is, why would we “advertise” the need to intervene with special education services. The answer is simply the power and efficiency of the investment. The return on investment is proven over time, and by national and local statistics that show the benefit of effective intervention and the decreased need for intensive services over a lifetime. In addition, if you speak with any parent of a child with Autism, you will likely hear that this investment is critically important and significantly meaningful.
In Stanislaus County, 59 percent of students in special education (ages three through 22) with a primary diagnosis of Autism are younger than the age of nine. The critical window of intensified intervention during the early years of development (before age six), leads to a higher degree of independence and maximized outcomes. According to the regionalized report dated May 9, for the Stanislaus County SELPA (Special Education Local Plan Agency), 84 percent of students served in a special day class are in preschool or primary grades. The SELPA regionalized providers operate only four intermediate special day classes and just one junior high special day class to support students with Autism. The reason for the decline at this level of service is the success rate of intervention and targeted programming that allows opportunities for growth and development, leading children to less restrictive environments in general education settings.
Although there is no cure for Autism, research shows that early intervention services and effective educational strategies can improve a child’s development long term and are a worthy return on investment.