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Autism Spectrum Disorder Statistics

Autism Spectrum Disorder Statistics: Public Education

In 2003, approximately 141,022 children were served under the "Autism" classification for special education services. Not all children with an autism spectrum disorder receive special education services under the classification of "Autism," so the education data underestimate the actual prevalence of the ASDs.
Autism was added as a special education exceptionality in 1991 and is now the sixth most commonly classified disability in the United States. The most common disability classifications in 2003 were:
  • Specific learning disabilities (2,866,908 children served)
  • Speech or language impairments (1,129,260 children served)
  • Mental retardation (582,663 children served)
  • Emotional disturbance (484,479 children served)
  • Other health impairments -- which often includes children diagnosed with ADHD (452,442 children served).
Futhermore, the number of children being served under an autism spectrum disorder classification in public special education programs changed. In 1994 ASDs were the tenth most common disability serving children ages 6 to 21 in special education. Between 1994 and 2003 the number of children being classified as having an autism spectrum disorder has increased sixfold, from 22,664 to 141,022. While it is clear that more children are getting special education services for autism than ever before, it is important to remember that this classification was only added in the early 1990s and the growth of children classified may be in part due to the addition of this as a special education category.
(Click Autism Education for more information about public education resources available for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.)
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