Autism Accounts For Growing Percentage Of Students In Special Ed

More students with disabilities have a diagnosis of autism, but the prevalence of developmental disability in special education varies by state. (Don Kelsen/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Special education students across the country are increasingly likely to have autism, and new data shows the percentage has more than doubled in recent years.

Nearly 13% of students with disabilities had autism during the 2022-2023 school year. By comparison, just 5% had that diagnosis in 2008-2009.

The information comes from a report recently issued by the U.S. Department of Education that looks at ages 5-21 served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act who are on the spectrum.

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On the high end, 17.28% of students with disabilities in California had autism, while only 5.76% had it in Montana in the 2022-2023 school year.

More than 4 in 5 students with autism nationally were boys, the Department of Education found.

About 40% of people with autism spent at least 80% of their day in regular classrooms and about 72% finished their time in school earning a regular high school diploma.

The upward trend in the percentage of special education students with autism comes as overall prevalence has increased. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently estimates that about 1 in 36 children has autism, up from 1 in 150 two decades ago.

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