International Meeting for Autism Research: Socio-Economic Based Disparities In Classification and Educational Services to Autism Spectrum Disorder Children

Socio-Economic Based Disparities In Classification and Educational Services to Autism Spectrum Disorder Children

Thursday, May 12, 2011: 12:00 PM
Elizabeth Ballroom D (Manchester Grand Hyatt)
10:30 AM
S. Neves1, S. Kurland1, J. Shenouda1, N. Scotto-Rosato2, S. Howell2 and W. Zahorodny3, (1)Pediatrics, UMDNJ, Newark, NJ, (2)NJ State Health Department, Trenton, NJ, (3)New Jersey Medical School, Newark
Background:  While the number of children receiving special education services for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is increasing, little is known about the educational classification and placement of these children. Children on the spectrum receive a wide range of services, ranging from general education interventions to self-contained classrooms. It is important to understand how children with ASD are properly identified in order to receive services to fit their individual needs. 

Objectives:  The purpose of this study is to understand the provision of special education services to children with ASD in a large, population-based sample. Case-specific data were analyzed according to sex, race, and socio-economic status (SES), in order to identify patterns of special education classification and placement. 

Methods:  Data were collected as part of the New Jersey Autism Study (NJAS), an ASD surveillance investigation carried out in Essex, Union, Hudson and Ocean Counties.  Using an active case-finding method established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ASD surveillance data were developed for children who were born in 1998 and resided in the surveillance region during 2006.  NJAS data were based on review, analysis and independent ASD case-determination derived from information contained in health and education records.  Demographic information, impairment and case-specific data, including the educational and program classification of children in their analyzed. The socioeconomic status (SES) of children with ASD was represented by the District Factor Group (DFG) ranking, a community-level index.  Statistical analysis was performed using t-tests.  

Results:  In a population of over 30,000 8-year old children, 533 children were identified with an ASD, 509 (95%) received special education services and 224 of children with ASD (46%) were classified Autistic. Moreover, 123 classified Autistic children (54%) were placed in an Autism program. Autistic classification and Autism placement did not vary significantly by sex, race or SES. Among severely impaired children, 65.9 % were classified Autistic and 49.6% were placed in Autism program than less-impaired children (36.6% and 17.4%, respectively) (p<0.05). ASD children from affluent communities were over 4 times less likely to be classified Cognitively Impaired or Multiply Disabled (1.5% and 6.9%) than non-affluent children (7.0% and 26.3%) (p<0.05). Children from affluent communities were also more likely to be placed in less restrictive environments, such as pull-out (34.6% to 7.5%) and inclusion programs (14.6% to 4.0%)(p<0.05). 

Conclusions: Almost all children with ASD in our region (95%) received special education services in 2006, indicating the comprehensive identification of special education needs in ASD children. Children residing in higher SES communities are more often mainstreamed and according them the opportunity to learn with other general education students, which might improve their outcome. When compared to their affluent peers, students from lower SES communities were more often placed in more restrictive educational environments. Further research is needed to understand the relationship between socio-economic status and the educational interventions provided to ASD children.

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