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Little Rock, AR: "Greater numbers" of disabled students; 55% increase in autism in 7 yrs

Jan 11, 2020, Texarkana (AR) Gazette: Cost of special education keeps rising: LITTLE ROCK — Over the past decade, greater numbers of Arkansas children have been diagnosed with disabilities that require them to receive education. Consequently, Arkansas public schools are spending greater amounts of money on special education. Last year, there were almost 64,000 students with a diagnosed disability in Arkansas public schools. That is 13.4% of the state's total student enrollment. Arkansas school districts spent $458 million on special education services, or about $7,382 per pupil with a disability. In the 2012-2013 school year, Arkansas schools spent $412 million on special education for 54,000 students…. There is a category titled specific learning disability that includes dyslexia and developmental aphasia. It represents the largest category of disability, and applies to 3% of the students in special education. About 25% have a speech language impairment, about 12% have intellectual disabilities and about 8% receive special education services because they are on the autism spectrum. Except for the category of children with multiple disabilities, all other categories have shown increases, with autism growing the most over the past few years. The number of students diagnosed with autism has gone up 55% since 2013. The increase is attributable to an increased awareness among educators and others of the characteristics of autism. The growth in children diagnosed with dyslexia has followed a similar trend. In 2014, for example, 957 students received therapy for dyslexia. In 2014, only 89 school districts and one charter school reported results from screening for dyslexia. … Last year legislators worked on changes to a category of special education known as high-cost or catastrophic occurrences. They happen when services for an individual student are extraordinarily higher than what is regularly provided in state funding categories. In the 2019 regular session, the legislature approved Act 877 to appropriate $13.2 million for special education high-cost occurrences.


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