As I noted in an earlier post, the autism services industry is looking at unprecedented growth in the coming years. A recent CDC finding that 1 in every 100 American children has autism only underscores the growing need for autism services. Within the next 5 years, there could be as many as 1 million children with autism in American schools. In fact, schools are right now, and will continue to be, the biggest service provider for children with autism. That’s why such a huge component of the autism industry is in professional development.
Department of Education studies have shown that 80 percent of autistic students will end up in a general education classroom at some point. Though the model in the past has been to hire one special education teacher for every X students with developmental disabilities, that is becoming increasingly a thing of the past as numbers of special needs students continue to rise, and it becomes clear that many students are better served by staying in a general education classroom. This translates into a growing need to train millions of teachers and support staff who are working with students with autism every day, and yet may not have a firm understanding of how to best work with students with autism. What’s more, with schools watching their budgets, there is a huge return on investment in equipping teachers and support staff to work with autistic students rather than reaching an unsustainable level of specialized staff. The opportunities to better prepare educators and meet the needs of children with autism are converging, and represent another reason why the autism services industry is essential and expanding.