Indiana: Expert sees more autism/"more children who have co-occurring mental health issues"

April 23, 2018, Fort Wayne (IN) News Sentinel: Autism in education For the second year in a row, Jenn Kersey has advocated for a legislative summer study committee to look at issues focused on autism and public education. Last year, a bill passed calling for a study committee to examine autism-related programs and services, but it was never assigned to a committee. Undeterred, Kersey was back in Indianapolis this year for the 2018 session. … According to the Indiana Department of Education, last year, the state identified 15,210 school-age students whose primary disability was autism spectrum disorder; this year, it is 15,721, an increase of 511 or 3.3 percent. “This has been the trend for the last several years,” said Pamela Wright, director of the office of special education, Indiana Department of Education. … Cathy Pratt, director of the Indiana Resource Center for Autism at Indiana University, has witnessed the increase in children diagnosed with autism. She’s been in the field for several decades, and when she started, it was 1 in 10,000 nationally; now it’s one in 68. No one really knows why, whether it’s increased awareness, better diagnosis or other factors, she said. And not only is she seeing more children with ASD, “I’m seeing more children who have co-occurring mental health issues as well. We know that anxiety is very common among children on the spectrum, and with anxiety comes depression,” Pratt said. “But in addition to that, I also see children who have other co-occurring issues going on. So we have more kids who are coming to us with more complex issues.” … An Indiana State University survey of Indiana school superintendents last fall indicated that 70 percent of those responding (141 superintendents) reported shortages in special education teachers.