Christina A. Samuels reports on an Education Week analysis of child-count data from the US Department of Education:
After years of steady decline, the nationwide count of school-age students covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act has shown an upswing since the 2011-12 school year based on the most recently available federal data, driven by rapid growth in such disability categories as autism.
The count of students ages 6-21 with disabilities fell to a low of 5.67 million in fall 2011, but had risen to 5.83 million by fall 2014, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
A third of the nationwide increase in 2014-15 came from one state, New York. The reasons for the sharp increase in the state are not clear.
Virginia is among the states that have seen a large increase in the population of students with autism.
At one time, autism was considered a "low incidence" disability in Virginia, said John Eisenberg, the state's director of special education. Now, those students make up the fourth-largest disability category in the state.
Nationwide, the number of 6- to 21-year-old students classified as having autism rose 165 percent between the 2005-06 and 2014-15 school years, based on a count of nearly all states. (Wyoming did not report numbers for 2014-15.)