As education budgets shrink and federal standards multiply, public schools must scramble to find ways to improve and innovate on a shoestring. Now, with a staggering increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism, they face another formidable challenge: providing many thousands of children with special education that can cost an average of $19,000 per child, per year.
In this special report, we look at a daunting special-needs crisis and the ways some public school programs have managed to cope, successfully, with the challenge. The centerpiece of the package looks at the overall impact of an influx of autistic students to the nation’s public schools. In three shorter features, we focus on programs in California, Massachusetts, and New York that have earned praise and shown promising outcomes. Another story examines how assistive technology can be especially useful for certain autistic students, and another illustrates how one peer-to-peer program for autistic students provides both academic and social and emotional learning to everyone involved.