New Jersey’s autism rate, 1 in every 32 children, is the highest in the nation, and a new study says in some school districts, that number is markedly higher. Nationally, the rate is one out of every 54 children.

In a story published by APP.com, it is reported that the study, which covered 74 districts, found that the autism rates in some of New Jersey’s largest school districts are much higher than the state average. In the Toms River district, one in fourteen, eight-year-olds is on the autism spectrum. Newark, Elizabeth, and Jersey City also had rates higher than the state average.

Included in the research were districts in Essex, Union, Hudson, and Ocean Counties.

Walter Zahorodny, co-author of the study and an associate professor of pediatrics at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, told APP.com that in nearly every district they studied, the rate of children on the spectrum is rising. The statewide rate is 3.6%; in the seventy four districts researched, the rate varied from 0% to 10.8%.

The rising rate of autism will certainly present additional challenges to schools since students on the spectrum typically require more in the way of resources. As the father of a son with autism, I have seen first hand how difficult it can be for kids like that to learn. The paraprofessionals assigned to my son over the years were invaluable, but extra staff means more money.

There is no universally accepted explanation for why New Jersey leads the nation in autism rates, although better detection here probably contributes to it. The exact causes of autism are unknown.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle. Any opinions expressed are Bill Doyle's own.

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