Surge in Autism Challenges Schools

47361599By Leslie Postal, Orlando Sentinel–Donna Lorman was up front with the school when she enrolled her son in kindergarten in 1997, sharing the devastating diagnosis she’d heard from her pediatrician. The boy had autism.

The principal’s response, Lorman recalls, was like a smack to the face: “We just don’t take kids like that here.”

At the time, fewer than 150 Orange County public-school kids had autism, and understanding of the disorder was as limited as the numbers.

Lorman fought to have her son enrolled in that neighborhood school and, in the following years, to get him needed classes and services. Since then, she has seen “amazing and scary” growth in the number of Central Florida children with autism and a sea change in offerings and attitude.

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