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Kent Co, MD: SPED supervisor sees 'tremendous increase' in ASD cases; 'no cause of autism'

Aug 12, 2023, Easton (MD) Democrat Star: Kent sees rise in autism spectrum disorder among children

CHESTERTOWN — According to the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, one in 43 children in Maryland are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder….

In Kent County, cases of ASD are following the state trends. Supervisor of Special Education for Kent County Public Schools Wendy Keen talked about her observations since she moved into the position in 2019.

“We’ve had a tremendous increase in early cases here,” she acknowledged.

Keen added that 13 percent of children in Kent County ages 3 to 21, now receive special services.

There are different levels and that determines the level of support, Keen explained.

Level 1s need support. Level 2s need substantial support. Level 3s are nonverbal, requiring very substantial support.

Kent County, Keen said, has a majority of level 2s.

With the numbers here increasing, and with knowledge of the disorder growing, KCPS offers services and programs to children of all ages, especially in the early years.

“Early intervention is key,” Keen said. “We’d like to get in sooner to help with the communicative part.”

It starts with detection.

She highlighted the programs offered in Kent County once a child is diagnosed…. Keen pointed out some of the challenges she faces with a disorder the federal government made a special education category in 1991.

“There is no cause of autism. Some say genetic, some say environmental factors and some say it’s both,” Keen said….

“Parents are scared of the diagnosis,” she said. “I understand.”

The sooner children with ASD get into the programs, the better, she urged.

“We start serving children at birth,” Keen remarked. “And it does make a big difference.”


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