Autism rates are up: The Economist pinpoints the growing challenges
The Economist made autism its cover and ran two articles about autism on Autism Awareness Month in April. The first article is titled “Beautiful minds, wasted: How not to squander the potential of autistic people”. The second one is entitled “Spectrum Shift: Children in the rich world are far more likely to be diagnosed with autism than in the past. Why is this and what can be done to help them lead fulfilling lives.”
As the number of children with autism spectrum disorder appears to increase, some of the key points highlighted in those articles are:
• There is a need to provide autistic children with “schooling that suits them”. • There is an emergent need for teacher training. It is mentioned that “in one study 60% of British teachers said they felt unprepared to teach autistic children”. • A very low percentage of autistic adults work full time mainly due to lack of job-training and assistance in finding jobs.
Lack of appropriate and effective teaching by specialized and well trained special educators and therapists lead to school drop-outs and unemployment. In the US, the drop-out rate of children with autism is twice higher than any other kid. In Europe the situation is also very sad. For instance, in France, “only 11% progress on to lower secondary school and just 1% to upper secondary school”.
Several scientists advocate that early intervention is a key success factor. Also, modern instructional techniques and stimulating learning tools like the movement-based educational games such as Kinems, should be used for the benefit of the children.
Closing, I would like to quote the phrase at one placard that a child was holding during a demonstration about autism awareness: “Together we can solve the puzzle”.