GAO Report On Autism Education Costs

Reps. Burton & Watson Announce Findings

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dan Burton (R-IN) and Congresswoman Diane Watson (D-CA) announced today the findings of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) study on the costs of educating individuals afflicted with some type of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

“The results of this report are truly sobering,” stated Chairman

“With 1.5 million Americans now living with some form of ASD, it is becoming more widely known how debilitating a disease autism can be, but not very many people consider the practical implications, such as the costs of educating autistic individuals.”

Said Rep. Watson, “The GAO Report confirms that autism has increased
at alarming rates in the United States – more than 500% over the past
decade – and that the cost of educating autistic children is significantly higher
than that of educating children with many other disabilities. The GAO
Report suggests that better diagnosis and a broader definition of autism
may in part explain the substantial increase in autistic children. However, I
believe that further studies should be undertaken of other risk factors,
including the correlation between mercury-containing vaccines and higher
rates of autism.”

The GAO report made several key findings, including:

* Data collected for the Department of Education indicated that the number of children ages 6-21 diagnosed with autism and served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has increased by more than 500% in the last ten years.

* Children receiving services for autism under IDEA increased from under 20,000 in 1993 to almost 120,000 in 2002 (the most recent year for which figures are available).

* The estimated per pupil expenditure by disability in 1999-2000 indicated that autistic children cost the Federal Government $18,800 per student, up from $12,500 for the average special education student. Children not enrolled in special education classes – “regular education” students – cost approximately $6,556 annually.

* Approximately 68% of the total expenditures for children with autism (an estimated $12,773) were used on instruction and related services.

Concluded Chairman Burton, “To have a 500-percent increase in the
number of kids requiring special education services at nearly 3 times the
cost of a ‘regular education’ student is just astounding. Coming on the
heels of last week’s revelation that Merck Pharmaceuticals knew as early
as 1991 that mercury-containing vaccines had potentially devastating effects
on children, this study should serve as a rude awakening to the problem we
are facing.”

Representatives Burton and Watson previously served as Chairman and
Ranking Minority Member respectively of the Government Reform Subcommittee on Human Rights and Wellness (2003-2004), where they held several hearings examining the possible correlation of mercury-containing vaccines and increasing incidents of autism.

For more information regarding Chairman Burton’s legislative and investigative efforts on autism and Federal vaccine policy, please visit
his website at

A copy of the GAO report, entitled “Special Education: Children with Autism,” is available at

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