Recently released data from the California Department of Education shows about 1% of all children enrolled in public school is diagnosed with autism. The new data, released on August 31 for the school year 2010-2011, can be found on the CDE's website Dataquest.
State-wide data shows 1 in 94 children is receiving special education for autism in 2011 compared to 1 in 431 a decade ago in 2000-2001. A triple increase in autism rates was reported by California Watch in February, 2011, but these new numbers point to even larger increase, about 4.5 fold, in the last ten years in California public schools.
The highest rates were found in Orange County where 1.5% of children enrolled, 1 in 63, has been diagnosed with autism and is receiving special education services. In 2000, the data shows the numbers were more in line with the state at 1 in 398 children. Autism now accounts for 15% of the all disabilities in Orange County compared to 2.6% ten years ago.
Other counties with high rates include Los Angeles ( 1 in 74 children) Santa Clara (1 in 87 children) and Tuolomne (1 in 68 children). The lowest rates where found in the rural counties of Trinity, Modoc, Mono, and Alpine. Trinity County is reporting the lowest with 1 in 157 children diagnosed with autism this school year. The increase in autism rates is also slightly lower than the state-wide rates at around triple over the decade. Trinity County had no students enrolled with autism in 2000-2001 and did not report any students until two years later in 2002-2003, when the data shows 1 autistic student.
Note: The data for rural counties may point to a lack in health services and public transportation, which makes it difficult for children to get diagnosed and treated.
Researched and written for California's Children by Liz Carlyle.