NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

CNA Public Schools Educate Autistic Children?

November 14, 2002

Autism strikes one in every 500 children born and there are indications the incidence of autism is growing. In California, for example, there has been a three-fold increase in autism cases reported over the past decade.

Parents of autistic children say it is a challenge to locate good care and instruction for them -- and that many public schools aren't up to the task.

  • In Texas, government-sponsored programs for children with autism and other developmental disabilities have waiting lists of up to nine years.
  • But autism specialists say that the earlier there is intervention in an autistic child's life, the better the outcome.
  • Experts say the most effective treatment in very young children is intensive education -- that means one-on-one teaching of language and skills, which costs an average of around $33,000 a year.
  • Despite provisions of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, less than 10 percent of children with autism receive the amount of therapy that a national panel of experts recommended last year.

Despite mounting research showing that autism is a genetically-based brain disorder, some health insurance companies do not accept it as a health condition and refuse to pay for such services as speech and occupational therapy.

Source: Polly Morrice, "Few Options for Treating Autism," New York Times, November 12, 2002.  


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