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***Novi, MI: "ALARMING" 47% INCREASE IN AUTISM in nine yrs; "like most schools"

July 16, 2019, Novi (MI) Hometown Life: Alarming increase in autistic students creates ongoing challenges for school districts Facing a staggering 47% increase in the number of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) students enrolled in its district since 2010, Plymouth-Canton Community Schools — like most school districts in the country — is entrenched in a daily race to keep up with the complexities that accompany its rising special-needs population. For all of the questions and dilemmas that accompany these complexities, there are few clear-cut answers, a decent share of resistance from families searching for the ideal programs for their children and a paperwork-coated strain on special-education teachers that administrators fear could lead to early burnout and system-crippling teacher shortages…. Difficult questions Among the most challenging dilemmas school districts confront throughout each ASD student's educational career are: Where to place each student in the multi-tiered special education flow chart?; What type of impact do the mainstreamed ASD students have on their neuro-typical peers?; Does the student need an adult para-professional to assist him or her during the school day?; and Are special-education teachers being overburdened with an ever-increasing mountain of rules and regulations they must follow and state-mandated paperwork that must be completed thoroughly — all the while making sure the students they instruct receive the best education possible? There are no easy answers…. Dwindling staff There is a troubling shortage of special-education teachers in Michigan, according to a 2017-18 study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education. Overall, teacher education enrollments dropped from 691,000 to 451,000, a 35% reduction, according to the Learning Policy Institute. This translates to a decrease of almost 240,000 class-room professionals in the year 2014, as compared to 2009. "That really impacts special education, no doubt," Woodhams said. "We don't have as many people going into special education as we need and so finding staff with a certification for autism is even more difficult. "If you really need to find a teacher with autism certification and you can't find one, you can write a letter of request to the state ... but you only get the staff person for one year and you have to keep looking. … “For neuro-typical kids, the great thing is they can learn about kids that are different and different learners because in the workforce, they're going to be working with different kinds of people. It can teach them wonderful skills about how to support others and how to be a friend to someone who is different than they are. It's good stuff on both sides.”


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