Autistic students in North Dakota doubles since 2010

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BISMARCK, N.D. - The number of autistic students in North Dakota is rapidly increasing, nearly doubling since 2010, causing a greater need for special education.

The State Education Funding Committee announced they will be receiving an increase in funding for special education, and it's needed as the number of students diagnosed with autism is rapidly increasing.

“If the child does have a disability then the second question is, do they require specialized instruction to progress in the regular curriculum,” said Gerry Teevens, Director of Special Education for the Department of Public Instruction.

In 2010 only about 600 North Dakotan students were diagnosed with autism. Now that number has nearly doubled.

“Those numbers seem to be growing all the time, and is it actual increases in special education needs or is it because we're widening the definition? We need to have these conversations to find out what it is,” said Sen. David Rust, R-Tioga.

In 2011 the legislature decided to broaden the definition of autism.

“There's always a lag time between changing a definition and actually identifying it. It's like everything else, once you pass something, whether it's legislation or regulation, there's still a lag time where that needs to catch up,” said Rust.

The state will be granting $800,000 more in special education aid for 2017 to 2019 than the last biennial appropriation.

This amounts to $19.3 million.

Teevens says every North Dakota public school is required to have at least one specialist who can meet the needs of children with disabilities.

The transportation grant was decreased more than $1.7 million, making more money available for special education programs.