Do Old Teachers Claim an Epidemic
I certainly have seen this claim a number of times and I suspect that many of my readers will have as well. It seems fair to put this to a test. After all, the way the point is usually written tries to reflect the opinion of most/all the special educators and not just one or two special educators.
Recently I attended a meeting with 20 or so special education teachers. A total of 6 of them had 25+ or more years of experience. The opportunity as not lost on me and I took a moment to ask: “Is the prevalence of autism increasing, decreasing, or staying static and why do you think this is the case?” The answers are summarized below.
Teacher 1: The prevalence seems to be increasing. She had no ideas why, and didn’t care to speculate.
Teacher 2: The prevalence is truly increasing. Unspecified environmental toxins are most likely to blame
Teacher 3: Prevalence seems to be increasing. No ideas why, claimed not be very familiar with the issues. Didn’t want to guess.
Teacher 4: Prevalence is static. Political issues related to special education law, allow parents to choose a more desirable autism label compared to what the testing says. Claimed she had seen it before with ADHD in the late 80s. She also mentioned that placement is a IEP category does not constitute diagnosis.
Teacher 5: Prevalence is static. Better diagnostics and broader definitions are the cause. Claimed that no one heard of Asperger’s Disorder before 5 years or so ago.
Teacher 6: Prevalence is increasing. No ideas why and didn’t care to speculate.
So the total is 4 who didn’t know why and/or refused to try to guess.
1 person who thought that the increase was due to IEP issues.
1 person who thought that the increase was due to better diagnostics and definitions.
And 1 person who thought that environmental toxins were the cause.
So, what does all this prove? Well, very little to be honest. This type of informal survey can tell us almost nothing about popularity or what the majority veteran special educators think. The only thing is proves, is that bowling up to a special education teacher and asking if the autism increase is real or not, is not for sure, going to be met with a certain answer. This is contrary to claim or myth as it is usually given. The morale here is: “Don’t buy it!”