New Data on Autism Spectrum Disorder  

June 23, 2014
It is likely no one reading the title of this article is surprised. Autism gets a lot of coverage in the media. While new data from Centers for Disease Control’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network show that the estimated number of children identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) continues to rise. About 1 in 68 children (or 14.7 per 1,000 8 year olds) were identified with ASD per the recent study. While it is important to remember that this estimate is based on 8-year-old children living in 11 communities. It does not represent the entire population of children in the United States. This new data can indicate that what has been considered a low incidence disorder is more common. We are likely to encounter individuals with ASD in our schools and communities. ASD is a developmental disability  that can result in significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. While there is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, individuals with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. Individuals with ASD, their families and the schools that educate them need a lot of support.

One support for individuals with ASD is the Nebraska ASD Network which was created by the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) Special Populations Office. The network is composed of five regional teams throughout Nebraska and the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), one of which, the Central Region ASD Team is housed at ESU 10. The goals of the network are to assist school districts in providing quality educational opportunities for children with ASD and to enhance schools capacity in providing free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment.

Support for individual districts in the Central ASD Region varies dependent on their need and willingness to access training or request services. Some district personnel, with parental involvement, make requests for technical assistance/referrals when they encounter specific programming or behavior challenges with students. While some districts routinely send teachers to trainings offered by the Central ASD Team, others ask that training specific to needs of their teachers occur in their district. Some have made a two year commitment to a District Autism Team Training which supports a school team in creating a vision and action plan for serving individuals with ASD in their communities. Some districts are faithfully sending teachers to the annual NE ASD Conference. Still others have sought to have their teachers involved in STEPS, a year-long, mentored training to increase their skills and ability to support students.

-Dawna Sigurdson, ESU 10 School Psycholgist