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Montana: 10% increase in students with autism EVERY YEAR IN MT; "Growing trend"

April 16, 2019, Great Falls (MT) Tribune: Autism Awareness: The growing tide of supports and services On April 2, Montana Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines announced their bipartisan support of the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support (CARES) Act to fund research, training, and services and supports that improve the lives of people with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental and intellectual disabilities. This includes diagnostic services, training for health care providers and family members, and community training events. The reauthorization of the Autism CARES Act will be a crucial step in addressing the needs of those with autism. When I was training to be a special education teacher 30 years ago, a common response to the mention of autism was, “never heard of it.” We didn’t learn much about it, we didn’t prepare to teach children with autism, nor did we have kids in our classrooms who were identified as autistic. It was another 10 years before educators started talking about a new wave of student behaviors and challenges in the classroom. Autism information began to flood our mailboxes and school staff meetings. It wasn’t long before our education and family-focused social service systems were overwhelmed. We didn’t see it coming and we weren’t prepared for it. The number of autism diagnoses has been steadily rising in the United States. Three decades ago, about 1 in every 150 children was diagnosed with autism. In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 1 in 68 children had autism. In 2018, the estimate was 1 in 59 children. Closer to home, recent data from the Montana Office of Public Instruction indicates that the number of students with autism spectrum disorder increases by more than 10 percent every school year. This growing trend in Montana and across the nation has been consistent for over a decade. In response to this trend, several state legislatures have established offices to coordinate statewide efforts to meet the demand. Though Montana hasn’t created an office dedicated to autism, the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) has an autism resource page. In 2015, with a small grant provided by the Autism CARES Act, the University of Montana and the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities established the Montana Autism Center to provide information and training resources to families and professionals. Over the past five years, the Center has worked with hundreds of teachers and daycare providers, and dozens of families and children. … The good news is that the Autism CARES Act focuses on understanding autism and what causes it. It also helps families and service providers learn how to support and assist children, youth and adults diagnosed on the autism spectrum to be successful at home, school, on the job and in the community. …

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