More than one of every 100 local students have autism, a rate that has more than tripled during the last decade, according to new figures from the California Department of Education.
About 3,830 students in the four-county area were autistic in December 2011, up by 450, or 13 percent, from 2010. The rise occurred even as total enrollment in the region stayed flat.
Statewide, the number of autistic students rose by 6,000, or 9 percent, to almost 72,000. For perspective, the number of autistic students in California now outnumbers the total enrollment of Elk Grove Unified, the region's largest school district.
Theories for the rise, which is a nationwide phenomenon, include improved autism screening, broader definitions of the condition and a genuine increase in autism cases.
A widely-publicized University of California study concluded that changes in diagnoses patterns alone cannot explain the rise in the disease. Instead, the study postulated that environmental factors were partially to blame and called for more study of the effects of viruses, pesticides, chemicals and other substances on the development of autism.
This chart shows the number of students with autism in the four-county region over the last decade.
Source: California Department of Education
Read more articles by Phillip Reese
What You Should Know About Comments on Sacbee.com
Sacbee.com is happy to provide a forum for reader interaction, discussion, feedback and reaction to our stories. However, we reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments or ban users who can't play nice. (See our full terms of service here.)
Here are some rules of the road:
Keep your comments civil. Don't insult one another or the subjects of our articles. If you think a comment violates our guidelines click the "Report Abuse" link to notify the moderators. Responding to the comment will only encourage bad behavior.
Don't use profanities, vulgarities or hate speech. This is a general interest news site. Sometimes, there are children present. Don't say anything in a way you wouldn't want your own child to hear.
Do not attack other users; focus your comments on issues, not individuals.
Stay on topic. Only post comments relevant to the article at hand.
Do not copy and paste outside material into the comment box.
Don't repeat the same comment over and over. We heard you the first time.
Do not use the commenting system for advertising. That's spam and it isn't allowed.
Don't use all capital letters. That's akin to yelling and not appreciated by the audience.
Don't flag other users' comments just because you don't agree with their point of view. Please only flag comments that violate these guidelines.
You should also know that The Sacramento Bee does not screen comments before they are posted. You are more likely to see inappropriate comments before our staff does, so we ask that you click the "Report Abuse" link to submit those comments for moderator review. You also may notify us via email at email@example.com. Note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us the profile name of the user who made the comment. Remember, comment moderation is subjective. You may find some material objectionable that we won't and vice versa.
If you submit a comment, the user name of your account will appear along with it. Users cannot remove their own comments once they have submitted them.