Number of children needing extra support at Scottish schools due to autism rises by 15%

Scotland – The number of children needing extra support due to autism has ­risen by 15 per cent in Scottish schools.

There has now been a call for an investigation into why the numbers have risen at such a rate and if schools and teachers are equipped to deal with such changes.

The Scotsman report that the Scottish Government said that an increase in both awareness and
better detection of autism were the reasons for the increase in numbers.

‘Last year The Scotsman, reported a four-fold rise in Scottish schoolchildren recorded with additional support needs (ASN) due to conditions such as autism over the past decade.’

The statistics show that the number of children needing extra support went from fewer than 29,000 in 2002 to more than 118,000 in 2012. In 2013, the figure increased to 131,621, that accounts for 19.5 per cent of all pupils.

Former president of Edinburgh-based charity the Autism Treatment Trust and campaigner Bill Welsh said:

“Genetic factors do not explain all cases of autism. We need to be investigating what else is going on here.

“As well as having a huge impact on the families affected, this rise has huge implications for the education system and teachers.”

Policy and campaigns officer of The National Autistic Society (NAS) Scotland, Robert MacBean said:

“We are concerned that getting the right support for pupils with autism at school continues to be extremely challenging, with many education professionals with limited understanding of autism failing to identify the needs of children with the condition.

“Even where children receive some support, frequently it is not enough to meet all of their needs. In particular, many children do not receive speech and language therapy.”

The Scottish Conservatives’ young people spokeswoman Liz Smith said that this increase in young people with additional support needs is placing pressure on schools and local ­authorities.

Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale said the increase in the numbers of pupils with autism was

“a sign that increased training and awareness of the condition is working”.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said that they have updated the guidance for teachers
in partnership with Scottish Autism.

The original article by Lyndsay Buckland in The Scotsman can be read here