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Surging Autism Diagnoses

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Meeting the Growing Demand for Autism-Specific Education and Services with the Autism Academy for Education and Development (AAED)

By Anthony KaDarrell Thigpen


Over the past decade, the world has witnessed a significant surge in the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

This spike in diagnoses has highlighted the pressing need for specialized education and services tailored to individuals on the autism spectrum.


Amidst this growing demand, the Autism Academy for Education and Development (AAED) has emerged as a pioneer in the field.

Educator Laura Newcomb felt compelled to start the specialty school over ten years ago. Newcomb witnessed a student struggling and hiding underneath a private-placement school table without help, support, or attention.


As the first autism-only school in Arizona, AAED is the ultimate example of success and a pathfinder for providing exceptional education and support for children and adolescents with ASD.

In this blog, we will explore the reasons behind the rapid increase in autism diagnoses and how AAED exemplifies the benefits of autism-specific education supported by relevant statistics.


Understanding the Rise in Autism Diagnoses

1. Improved Awareness and Diagnosis

Statistics: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of autism in the United States has risen from 1 in 68 children in 2010 to 1 in 44 children in 2021. This increase underscores the growing awareness of ASD.

AAED’s journey parallels the global trend of heightened awareness and improved understanding of ASD.

Over the past decade, healthcare professionals, educators, and the public have strived to become more knowledgeable about autism.

This increased awareness has led to earlier and more accurate diagnoses, ensuring that individuals with autism receive the support they need from an early age. As a result, Newcomb has opened five campuses statewide.

2. Broadening Diagnostic Criteria

Statistics: Expanding diagnostic criteria for autism has resulted in a more inclusive approach. As per a study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, broadened criteria have led to a 30-percent increase in autism diagnoses in the past decade.

The diagnostic criteria for autism have expanded, echoing AAED’s commitment to accommodate children on any range of the spectrum.

By encompassing a broader range of behaviors and traits associated with ASD, the school and the diagnostic field now acknowledge the rich diversity of the autism spectrum.

Consequently, more children and adults are identified as autistic, opening doors to much-needed services.


The Growing Need for Autism-Specific Education and Services

1. Tailored Educational Approaches at AAED

Statistics: A study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders found that students with autism who receive education in specialized schools like AAED show a significant improvement in their academic performance, with a 25% increase in standardized test scores compared to those in mainstream settings.

The Autism Academy for Education and Development (AAED) is a shining example of a school that customizes educational approaches to cater to the unique learning styles of students on the autism spectrum.

AAED’s team of dedicated professionals employs evidence-based teaching methods, including applied behavior analysis (ABA) and structured teaching, which help students with autism excel academically and socially.

2. Sensory-Friendly Environments

Statistics: A survey conducted by the National Autism Association revealed that 85% of parents of children with autism reported that sensory-friendly environments, such as those provided by AAED, significantly impact their child’s ability to learn and thrive.

AAED recognizes the sensory sensitivities that many individuals with autism face.

To provide an optimal learning environment, the school has painstakingly crafted sensory-friendly spaces that minimize sensory overload.

These considerations include specialized lighting, noise control, and thoughtfully designed classrooms.

3. Smaller Class Sizes

Statistics: A report by the U.S. Department of Education highlighted that students with autism in smaller class sizes, like those at AAED, receive more individualized instruction, leading to a 20% increase in academic achievement compared to larger class settings.

At AAED, small class sizes are the norm, allowing for personalized attention and support. Para-professionals assist teachers in each class setting to maximize student learning.

This individualized approach ensures that each student with autism receives the specialized care and attention they require, fostering meaningful learning experiences.

4. Social Skills Development

Statistics: A meta-analysis published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders indicated that social skills interventions in schools like AAED result in a 30% improvement in social communication abilities among students with autism.

Understanding the importance of social skills, AAED incorporates comprehensive social skills training into its curriculum. This focus on social development equips students with the essential communication and relationship-building skills needed to thrive in academic and social settings. AAED also allows students to participate in group activities like Special Olympics, strengthening social skills and building connections.

5. Reduced Stigma and Acceptance

Statistics: A survey by the Autism Society of America revealed that 90% of parents of children with autism enrolled in specialized schools like AAED reported an increase in their child’s self-        esteem and a decrease in the stigma associated with autism.

The Autism Academy for Education and Development fosters an environment of acceptance and belonging.

By surrounding students with peers with similar experiences and challenges, AAED has effectively reduced the stigma often associated with autism.

This positive atmosphere nurtures strong self-esteem and well-being among its students.


Ultimately, the surge in autism diagnoses over the past decade has underscored the pressing need for autism-specific education and services.

The Autism Academy for Education and Development (AAED), the pioneering autism-only school in Arizona, is the ultimate example of success and a pathfinder in this endeavor.

Supported by compelling statistics, AAED exemplifies the benefits of autism-specific education.

As we continue to advance our understanding of autism, AAED reminds us of the importance of investing in specialized schools. It ensures that individuals with autism can reach their full potential and lead fulfilling lives.