Jenna Chandler writes at The Orange County Register:
Two Chapman researchers analyzed 15 years of state special education eligibility data and found many students who once would have been considered to have a condition called Specific Learning Disability are now told they have autism.
According to the Chapman study, children who were once given the label Specific Learning Disability are now falling under the autism umbrella. Children with SLD don’t have an intellectual impairment, but fall short of expectations on such academic measures as listening, thinking, spelling or mathematical calculations. The shift is a concept the Chapman researchers are calling “diagnostic migration.”
“For every new kid with autism, there’s one less with SLD,” said researcher Donald Cardinal, a professor and former dean of educational studies at Chapman.
“We are showing that the increase is highly likely not a medical explanation. That alone is massive given how much we are spending on medical research,” he said.
Cardinal and Amy-Jane Griffiths, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor, unveiled the findings Tuesday to several hundred parents, service providers and researchers. The study has not yet been published in a scientific journal.
The professors analyzed special education eligibility designations for every student ages 3 to 22 in California schools from 2000 to 2015. To be eligible for special education, students must have a disability that falls into one of 13 categories, including Specific Learning Disability, autism, hearing impairment and traumatic brain injury.Erika Aguilar reports at KPCC:
Those who work with children with autism say improved diagnosis has helped better tailor academic resources to help them — but those resources are still inadequate as the population ages out of school.
“The more that we can understand their differences and their strengths as well as their similarities we can come up with better interventions,” said Amy Jane Griffiths, co-founder of the Institute and a licensed psychologist.
Griffiths said schools have learned to help autistic children manage their disabilities by trying to improve their social skills and academic performance but those services aren’t as intense once autistic children become young adults.
Although people with autism can be diligent workers, finding a job that harnesses that energy can be difficult; unemployment, underemployment and low pay are often the result.
“They get placed into jobs that they have no interest in. They’re not a passionate about it,” Griffiths said. “So, they don’t maintain the job. They have no motivation to. It’s not exciting.”