About 1 in 59 eight -year-old children in 11 communities across the United States were identified as having autism in 2014 as reported by the CDC this week. This report increases the feeling of urgency to ensure that all individuals living with autism receive appropriate services and supports to achieve their optimal outcomes. We still have a long way to go on this front, as adults living with autism have high rates of unemployment, experience limited social engagement with their communities, and do not have access to appropriate services in adulthood.
Autism prevalence has again risen. In addition to the prevalence numbers two interesting outcomes emerged:
- 1. Change in Ethnic Distribution: In the prior report (2012) they identified 20 percent more white children with autism than black children and 50 percent more than Hispanic children. In the most recent CDC report, researchers identified 7 percent more white children with autism than black children, and 22 percent more than Hispanic children. As there is no biologic reason for the disparity in autism diagnosis by ethnicity, this is directionally correct. This finding demonstrates progress in addressing ethnic diversity in autism diagnosis but as current movements like Black Lives Matter have brought to society’s attention, there is significant work to do to ensure the color of one’s skin does not dictate life outcomes. Ethnic disparity is an issue in education as well. Disproportionality in student discipline, graduation rates, and enrollment in special education have all been raised as concerns. This autism prevalence study provides additional data that our society continues to struggle with racism.
- 2. Geographical Distribution: 11 US communities participated in this study and the results show various rates of autism prevalence. Across the multiple monitoring sites, prevalence ranged from a low of 1 in 77 children in Arkansas to a high of 1 in 34 in New Jersey. This disparity is most likely reflective of access to healthcare as well as awareness and understanding of autism. New Jersey is well known for its diagnostic services and supports to those living with autism and other developmental disabilities. However, children should not be excluded from services an supports simply because they were born outside of New Jersey.
Prevalence studies are important. We now have 15 years of prevalence reports from the CDC informing us as a community. Progress is being made. But awareness of the number of people living with autism should prompt action to the development of meaningful supports. Additionally, the adult outcomes for many living with autism are abysmal. We can’t just identify people; we need to identify, support, and ensure every individual living with autism can lead a high-quality life.
So you might be asking what does this mean for me and how can Rethink Ed help?
Every student with autism deserves a quality education; Rethink Ed provides your district the tools to design, deliver, and monitor, evidence-based practices in special education. The comprehensive suite of tools ensures that every student develops the academic, behavioral and social/emotional skills they need to succeed in school, at work, and in life. Rethink Ed can help. To learn more contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Position: Implementation Specialist, Autism Department, the Office of Student Services
District: Washoe County School District, Reno, NV
Over the past 5 years, Mrs. Brock has used Rethink Ed to address the various needs in Washoe County School District. She began using Rethink as a teacher and now utilizes it as a district wide implementation coach. She is also a Rethink Ambassador and trains educators in her district on how to use Rethink Ed!
Rethink Ed supports Ms. Brock by helping her to:
Collaborate! Rethink Ed has given Mrs. Brock a common language, which has encouraged collaboration across the entire school district. For example, Mrs. Brock has two autism programs, with very different teaching and data collection styles. Rethink successfully helped to establish teamwork across multiple classrooms; “using the Rethink lesson plans and systems made it so any adult could work with any student at various locations throughout classroom.” With the help of Rethink’s lesson planning, they are able to ensure consistency in data collection. The detailed, step by step lesson plans easily allowed her to “facilitate lessons guided by paraprofessionals with the confidence that each step was being followed with consistency.” Rethink has helped Mrs. Brock to support the whole school community regardless of what class a student or educator is in.
With Rethink Ed, “I am able to guide teachers…and see growth in teacher knowledge and decrease in problem behaviors not only with the target student but with the whole class.”
Train other Educators! As a district wide Rethink Ambassador, Mrs. Brock encourages all of her teachers to utilize the entire Rethink system to best support their students’ needs. She provides ongoing training and support for educators on the various functionalities of the system. Washoe County School District has 63,919 students in 104 schools. The district has 4,705 instructional staff; therefore, Mrs. Brock can’t always support everyone in person. But with the help of Rethink she can “run reports on usage and determine what kind of support is needed for different teachers.” For example, Mrs. Brock used Rethink with “novice teachers to direct them first to the training center and available materials; for most teachers, I guide them through selecting appropriate lesson plans and engaging with the behavior tool and for my veteran teachers, I encourage use of running reports, graphing tools, meaningful usage of the student activity center as well as exploring the various webinars available.” The teachers are benefiting from Rethink webinars and resources regardless of what stage of their teaching career they’re in. Teachers can “solve issues in their classes by using different aspects of the Rethink system.”
Further her Career! As a Rethink Ambassador, Mrs. Brock has experienced personal career growth. Rethink has, “furthered my knowledge about adult learning theory and how to effectively deliver professional development to adults in a way that would be most meaningful for each individual.” Over the last 5 years, Mrs. Brock and Rethink have grown and adopted to meet the changing needs of educators and students. Mrs. Brock is excited to continue to work with Rethink as the program develops more resources and tools to meet the growing needs of our students.