Category Archives: Educational News

The Leader in Me

This summer, I joined this book study with this group in Chatham, Illinois, via Google Docs. My lifetime friend, Pam Hogan, and her team started this move in Chatham in 2016 and as you will hear from the principal, Elizabeth Gregurich, who is an awesome top down supporter, the paradigm shift is visible on their campus.  The district technology lead, Josh Mulvaney, is now involved via the book study,  which took it to district level.

Why did this hit home for me?  As stated in the previous post, finding everyone’s gifts, talents, passions, skills is what I have been preaching about for years.  “Everyone is a Genius”  states Elizabeth Gregurich.  I believe we all put on this planet for purpose and to delve into what those gifts, skills, talents and passions are will help you find yours!  “What is your genius”?

Albert Einstein wrote, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” The question I have for you at this point of our journey together is, “What is your genius?”

We know that ALL students can learn.  Students learn very differently just as you do.  How do we reach all students?  Differentiating instruction, meeting all modalities, understanding we all learn best at different times of the day, understanding we all don’t hear everything the first time, understanding that everyone is in a different place with prior knowledge, not everyone understands the academic language, and everyone has very different home situations.  These are the many concepts that educators must consider in a day while teaching their topic.

So, I have taken on the task to assist with “peppering” this cultural change onto their already full plate without the feeling of adding more to an already hectic schedule.  I’m looking for inspiration from all of you reading this.  Hoping someone in each district will look at the powerful positive outcome this creates and take it on for the sake of students and community.  Hopefully, this group will develop into assisting each other with ideas that create the interdependence necessary to produce best practices.~Sandy

Enjoy  the video below on how this school implemented the “The 7 Habits for Highly Effective People” through “The Leader In Me” as well as other resources.


I apologize for the quality but its about getting it said and done, not how perfect it is. ~Sandy

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Currently reading “The Leader In Me”, I awoke with such excitement as to how I can help implement this wonderful idea of creating the paradigm shift that Steve Covey brought to life in 1989 via the business world through the “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.

Being a teacher that began in the early 80s, I realized that many of these were in practice by most elementary schools but not to the degree in which Mr. Covey is suggesting.  Teachers always gave students jobs or tasks and changed them weekly.  Did we realized the ownership that those tasks brought to those students?  I know that we have some incredible ASB groups in our high schools, but we need to share out the leadership in all secondary schools.

Students feel ownership when provided with tasks that need to be done in the classroom and throughout the campus.  Mr. Covey saw the shift from in vocabulary from the school to MY school, the classroom to MY classroom, the school grounds to OUR school grounds.

As we have become more independent learners due to the need of meeting all student needs, have we forgotten the need to work together for the whole of community?  Do we need to take steps back to see how to have students work INTERdependently as well?

In his well-written book, The Leader In Me, the steps are set out on how to begin this paradigm shift.  Simply put, provide a task for students in the classroom, the school, the community.  Ask the students, what can YOU do that I am doing?  Maybe it is reading the morning bulletin, erasing the board at the end of class, gathering or passing out homework, changing bulletin boards, teaching one of the habits monthly, teaching others within the class in small group situations, leading the Pledge of Allegiance, summarizing the lesson or what is due next class period, etc.  This not only helps the teacher, but it helps the students feel ownership in the class.

Professional Learning Communities are no different than what was going on in the past.  Professionals getting together to plan lessons, set the calendar, share what is working, going over tests results to see if teaching or tests need to be changed.  This also is creating an interdependence.

When I was a math coach in Tulare Joint Union School System, our department had an incredible week of finding the needs of students in the classroom.  With the goal being that we didn’t want any of those students falling through the crack, we learned that it was  overwhelming task to meet ALL the needs.  Then we started looking at our own strengths.  What are we best at and how can that assist the entire department.  We assigned tasks to each pair of teachers that would work together to build all that needed to be done to meet the needs of all students for that year.  We had group-test builders, individual-test builders, those creating tasks for the advanced students, those creating assignments for the gaps in learning for the “strugglers”,  those putting the calendar together to meet the goals of the chapters, and more.  It was a beautiful work of interdependence that Mr. Covey is talking about here in his book.  All teachers took ownership in the work that needed to be done to meet the needs of all the mathematics students during 2006.

It’s not about buying in, it is about understanding the need for everyone to work together as teachers, administrators, students and parents to accomplish the goals of doing what is best for the teaching/learning of all students.

For those of you that know me personally, do you see me in this paradigm shift below?  I hope you do and I hope I am now at the 8th Habit!  ~Sandy

In short, this is a cut from wikipedia (

The book first introduces the concept of paradigm shift and helps the reader understand that different perspectives exist, i.e. that two people can see the same thing and yet differ with each other. On this premise, it introduces the seven habits in a proper order.

Each chapter is dedicated to one of the habits, which are represented by the following imperatives:

First Independence

The First Three Habits surround moving from dependence to independence (i.e., self-mastery):

1 – Be Proactive
Talks about the concept of Circle of Influence and Circle of Concern. Work from the center of your influence and constantly work to expand it. Don’t sit and wait in a reactive mode, waiting for problems to happen (Circle of Concern) before taking action.
2 – Begin with the End in Mind
Envision what you want in the future so you can work and plan towards it. Understand how people make decisions in their life. To be effective you need to act based on principles and constantly review your mission statement. Are you – right now – who you want to be? What do I have to say about myself? How do you want to be remembered? Change your life to act and be proactive according to the Habit 1. You are the programmer! Grow and stay humble.
3 – Put First Things First
Talks about difference between Leadership and Management. Leadership in the outside world begins with personal vision and personal leadership. Talks about what is important and what is urgent. Priority should be given in the following order:
1) Important and Urgent
2) Important and not-urgent
3) Not Important and Urgent
4) Not important and Not urgent

Habit 2 says: you are the programmer. Habit 3: Write the program. Become a leader! Keep personal integrity: what you say vs what you do.


The next three habits talk about Interdependence (e.g., working with others):

4 – Think Win-Win
Genuine feelings for mutually beneficial solutions or agreements in your relationships. Value and respect people by understanding a “win” for all is ultimately a better long-term resolution than if only one person in the situation had gotten his way. Think Win-Win isn’t about being nice, nor is it a quick-fix technique. It is a character-based code for human interaction and collaboration.
5 – Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
Use empathic listening to genuinely understand a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening and take an open mind to being influenced by you. This creates an atmosphere of caring, and positive problem solving.
The Habit 5 is greatly embraced in the Greek philosophy represented by 3 words:
1) Ethos – your personal credibility. It’s the trust that you inspire, your Emotional Bank Account.
2) Pathos is the empathic side — it’s the alignment with the emotional trust of another person communication.
3) Logos is the logic — the reasoning part of the presentation.
The order is important: ethos, pathos, logos — your character, and your relationships, and then the logic of your presentation.
6 – Synergize
Combine the strengths of people through positive teamwork, so as to achieve goals that no one could have done alone.

Continuous Improvements

The final habit is that of continuous improvement in both the personal and interpersonal spheres of influence.

7 – Sharpen the Saw
Balance and renew your resources, energy, and health to create a sustainable, long-term, effective lifestyle. It primarily emphasizes exercise for physical renewal, good prayer (meditation, yoga, etc.) and good reading for mental renewal. It also mentions service to society for spiritual renewal.

Covey explains the “Upward Spiral” model in the sharpening the saw section. Through our conscience, along with meaningful and consistent progress, the spiral will result in growth, change, and constant improvement. In essence, one is always attempting to integrate and master the principles outlined in The 7 Habits at progressively higher levels at each iteration. Subsequent development on any habit will render a different experience and you will learn the principles with a deeper understanding. The Upward Spiral model consists of three parts: learn, commit, do. According to Covey, one must be increasingly educating the conscience in order to grow and develop on the upward spiral. The idea of renewal by education will propel one along the path of personal freedom, security, wisdom, and power.[3]

The 8th Habit

8 – Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs.


The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has sold more than 25 million copies in 40 languages worldwide, and the audio version has sold 1.5 million copies, and remains one of the best selling nonfiction business books in history. In August 2011 Time listed 7 Habits as one of “The 25 Most Influential Business Management Books”.[4]

New Mobile Education App with Mega Info

New Mobile Application Offers Detailed Information about California’s PK-12 and Adult Education Schools

Source: California Department of Education


A new mobile application that offers detailed information about California’s 10,000 public schools was announced last week by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

The free “CA Schools” mobile app, which is available for iOS and Android systems, lets users locate nearby schools based on their current location or search for schools (public or private) by location (e.g., city, district, or ZIP code). The app provides information such as the school’s phone number, address, demographics, and test scores (for public schools).

“Never before have we put so much school information literally in the hands of our students, parents, and community members and made the information so accessible and user-friendly,” Torlakson said.

Visit for more information about this useful new app. Also see for today’s announcement about DataQuest improvements.

~ To subscribe to COMET, send the following message to Subscribe COMET [followed by your name]

Example:  Subscribe COMET Albert Einstein

Carol Fry Bohlin, Ph.D.

Professor and Graduate Program Coordinator (M.A. in Education-C&I)

Director, Mathematics and Science Teacher Initiative (MSTI)

Reporter/Editor, California Online Mathematics Education Times (COMET)

California State University, Fresno

5005 N. Maple Ave. M/S ED 2

Fresno, CA  93740-8025 



Real Estate, Mathematics, and Financial Literacy :

Life skills mathematics!  How often have I heard people ask me, “Why don’t schools teach math that students would really use in life?”  Well, now its here.  Thanks for taking time to check it out so you know what students are learning.  ~Sandy

Tips for Teachers Helping Students Plan for Success

Real estate – including renting, buying and investing – is an important concept for children to grasp, and yet it can feel like too much of an “adult” concept. Particularly for math and economics teachers, having a resource with lesson plans and information about these topics and how they relate to students age-appropriately is helpful. Here are some excellent resources and lesson plans you can use today in your classroom, as well as information about what topics will reach your children best.

Feel free to jump ahead to the sections that interest you most!

Understanding the National Standards Early Elementary School (Grades K-3) Late Elementary School (Grades 4-6)

Middle School (Grades 6-8) High School (Grades 9-12) Additional Information and Resources for Teachers


Understanding the National Standards

First, before you can get into the meat of what you need to be teaching children and when, you need to understand the basic standards and how they apply to the subjects of financial literacy and economics. Learning how to handle money and invest wisely is critical to success as an adult, and the Council for Economic Education has provided a list of National Standards for Financial Literacy. Keeping this list in mind will help you prepare lessons that are in line with what your students can and should be learning. In the resources discussed below, these standards will be discussed more deeply, but in general the standards require students to understand:

  •       Earning Income – Students need to understand how people earn income and what they can do to increase their income and job opportunities. In addition, older students need to learn about factors like interest, rent, capital gains, dividends, and profits, which can all affect the meaning of income in-hand.
  •        Buying Goods and Services – Students will need to understand how money is used to buy goods and services, and how people decide which goods and services to spend money on in the first place.
  •       Saving – Setting aside money for future use is an important concept for students to understand, and it relates to real estate in the fact that people need to save for deposits and down payments.
  •        Using Credit – Credit options and the use of credit is an important concept for students. Teaching students how to weigh the pros and cons of debt will make them more financially responsible.
  •       Financial Investing – Purchasing financial assets to create future income or wealth can involve real estate, and is an important concept for students to understand.
  •       Protecting and Insuring – Protecting one’s self and one’s financial investments helps reduce the risk of financial loss.

These standards apply to all students, regardless of socio-economic background. Throughout this guide, these resources serve as a basis for the lessons included. For more information about these standards, check out these resources:

  •        Jump$ – This site lists the competency levels for the national standards to help teachers determine if they are on track.
  •        Institute for Financial Literacy – Another checklist of benchmarks students need to attain in the quest for financial literacy.
  •        National Financial Educators Council – This resource breaks down the standards based on age and based on topic to help educators with their planning.
  •        Common Cents – This quarterly article from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City provides teachers and parents with lessons they can easily implement with their students. It covers all concepts and grade levels with a focus on money and economics specifically.

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Real Estate, Math, and Financial Literacy Concepts in Early Elementary School (Grades K-3)

In early elementary school, the concept of a major purchase like buying a home is almost impossible to understand. Students of this age have very little concept of money and its value. As such, much of the literacy and real estate teaching here simply sets the foundation for future study. You aren’t going to teach students about home buying and real estate investment in kindergarten, but you can teach them some basic economic concepts that will help them grow.

Key Concepts for Early Elementary Students

From grade K through grade 2, students are not yet ready to learn advanced economic concepts. Instead, they need a basic introduction to the ideas of buying, selling, and earning income. They also need to understand the fact that they have needs and wants, and they must grasp their power to make choices that affect those needs and wants.

Students in this age range need to be able to understand that:

  •         Numbers are a symbol for quantity
  •        People have different wants and need to choose between different things they may want
  •        People sometimes have to be able to tell the difference between “needs” and “wants.”
  •        We can choose the type of lifestyle we want
  •       We use goals to help us reach that lifestyle
  •       Our understanding of money affects the decisions we make
  •       Saving money require a plan
  •       Banks and financial institutions can help us grow our savings
  •       If we borrow, we have to pay it back
  •       We can choose a profession and use that to earn money
  •       Before we act, we need to think to help lower risk

Many of these concepts are not highly mathematical in nature, but they are still critical to a clear understanding of real estate investment, purchasing and profitability. They are also key to economic and financial literacy, so they are worth spending time on.

Lesson Plans for Early Elementary Students

Here are some lesson plans that you can use to cover these concepts in your lower elementary classroom.

  •         Learn to Earn When You Tend to Spend – Students in grades 2-3 will learn the meanings of spending and earning, which math function is associated with these actions, and how change is made up to a dollar.
  •        Financial Literacy Lesson Plan – This lesson plan set is for grades Pre K through 2 and covers making spending decisions, spending plans, earning money, and the definition of money.
  •        Fieldtrip to the Money Factory – This lesson plan and video shows young students where money is made.
  •        Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday – This lesson plan for grades K-2 uses a picture book to discuss the concepts of spending and saving money.
  •        Betty Bunny Wants Everything – This Q&A from another popular children’s book discusses the concept of want, choice and scarcity in a kid-friendly way.
  •        Bunny Money – Max and Ruby, two loveable storybook bunnies, explore the concepts of money, saving and spending in this picture book.
  •        My Money – An educational workbook for early elementary students about the basic concepts of income, money and saving.
  •        Money Activities for Kids – A collection of fun activities you can do in the elementary classroom to reinforce the idea of money and its uses.

As you can see, these lessons do not touch the topic of real estate and home buying specifically, but they cover the basic money concepts that students need to understand before they move on to an understanding of buying and selling real estate. Without this foundational understanding of earning money, spending money and saving money, students cannot move on to the more advanced concepts of home buying.

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Real Estate, Math, and Financial Literacy Concepts in Late Elementary (Grades 4-6)

In later elementary school from grade 4 on, students are able to grasp slightly more challenging concepts of money, spending and saving and can start to apply them to real world situations. This is a great time to introduce the idea of lending and interest, as well as some basics about investing. Students may be able to understand some slight concepts about home buying, but the focus is still on money management and income earning topics.

Key Concepts for Late Elementary Students

According to the financial literacy standards, late elementary students should be learning:

  •      That life involves making decisions, and those decisions require planning
  •        The habit of saving needs to start early
  •        Rainy Day (emergency) accounts are important to plan for
  •        The difference between saving, investing and sharing
  •        Different jobs and businesses have different lifestyles and require different preparation
  •        Understanding loans and contracts in real estate and sales decisions
  •        Credit has benefits and risks that need to be understood
  •        Credit has penalties if not repaid
  •        We can use insurance to protect our valuables from risks

Again, many of these concepts are not highly real estate specific, but the concepts of financial literacy are pointing students a bit more to the concepts of buying and selling real estate and investing in general. Teachers can set the foundation for better understanding of these concepts with strategic lesson plans on these topics.

Lesson Plans for Early Elementary Students

  •        Lemonade Stand Game – This online game allows upper elementary students to plan and run a virtual lemonade stand for 30 days with the goal of making money.
  •        Money Management Foundation – This lesson plan set for grades 3 through 6 covers allowances and spending plans, money responsibility, saving and investing and comparison shopping.
  •        Econ Explorers Curriculum – This free curriculum resource from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago explores economic concepts on a kid-friendly level.
  •        How Credit Works – A key concept in real estate is the mortgage, and in order to understand mortgages students must understand credit. This lesson will have students make a “loan application” with a family member.
  •        Think Before You Buy – In real estate and investing, you must think before you buy. This lesson plan for grades 5 and 6 will focus on teaching students to think before spending their money.
  •        Play CA Stock Market Game – Investing requires an understanding of the risks in the markets. The CA Stock Market Game gives students virtual money to invest in stock market in a computer-based environment. The money then grows or shrinks based on the student’s investment decisions and the real-world markets, helping students understand investment.
  •        Using Credit – Uses the book Not for a Billion Gazillion Dollars to introduce the concept of debt and credit. Designed for grade 5.

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Real Estate and Financial Literacy Concepts in Middle School (Grades 6-8)

In middle school, typically grades 6 through 8 or 9, students have a bit more reasoning capabilities. These students are on the cusp of getting their first jobs and having their first real money to spend, so this is a critical time to teach about money, investing and real estate concepts.

Key Concepts for Middle School Students

According to the financial literacy standards, middle school students should be learning:

  •        How to create and use a budget
  •        How compound and simple interest work
  •        How retirement accounts help people plan for the future
  •        Why saving is critical for success in life
  •        Harder work leads to a greater reward
  •        Our decisions have a positive or negative effect on our credit history
  •        There is a difference between positive and negative debt
  •        The relationship between insurance premiums and insurance coverage
  •        Lack of insurance carries specific risk
  •        How investments can grow with compound interest

Lesson Plans for Middle School Students

The real state and finance concepts studied in middle school set the stage for in-depth study in high school. Here are some lesson plans from authoritative sites that can help you prepare your middle school students for what they will be learning in coming years.

  •           Financial Basics Lesson Plan Set – This comprehensive list of 14 lesson plans covers everything from making money and budgeting to buying a home and using credit wisely. For grades 7 through 8.
  •           Money Math: Lessons for Life – This set of four lesson plans from TreasuryDirect focuses on important economic and investment concepts.
  •           Investments: The Gift that Keeps on Giving – This lesson plan will help middle school students see the types of investments available to them as young people.
  •           Mortgage Calculation Lesson Plan – This lesson plan, available for grades 7 and up, focuses on teaching students how to calculate the cost of a mortgage using a variety of factors.
  •  Real Estate Tycoon – This math and economics project for grades 6 through 8 asks students to design, “build” and “sell” a house, following the investment profits of the stock market to determine their profitability.
  • Careers in Real Estate – Students will research the career potential for various real estate related positions. Designed for grade 8.
  •            Mortgages – This BrainPOP movie and related lessons will help middle school students understand what mortgages are and how they work. Teachers can also create a quiz from the video content.
  •            Life Is About Choices and Choices Have Consequences – This lesson plan focuses on a number of financial choices, including mortgage, home buying and foreclosure, that a student may face in his or her life, and the long-term consequences of those choices.
  •           Mortgage Loan Calculation – Introduce the concept of a mortgage with this loan calculator and math worksheet.
  •           Calculate Down Payments as a Fraction – Use the down payment and cost of a home to study fractions in a real-life scenario. This lesson is for grades 6-8.
  •           Money Math – A middle school math curriculum focusing on financial literacy topics.
  •           Home Buying: Terms of a Mortgage – A middles school math unit exploring the terms of a mortgage.

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Real Estate and Financial Literacy Concepts in High School (Grades 9-12)

High school is the time when you need to dig deeply into financial literacy and real estate concepts. These young adults can and should understand the concepts of buying and selling real estate, leveraging investments and using interest to their advantage. In the high school years, students can delve a little deeper into the idea of investing in real estate, planning for a home purchase, shopping for a mortgage, and other real-estate related topics that they will face in just a few short years as adults.

Key Concepts for High School Students

According to the national standards, high school students should understand important adult concepts of home buying, credit and lending. Some of these concepts include:

  •        The makeup and protection of your credit profile and history
  •        How mortgages work and what factors allow you to get a mortgage
  •        How to plan for a home purchase, including budgeting
  •        How to leverage investments to grow your income
  •        How to analyze housing options, including buying versus renting
  •        How to analyze different credit and lending options
  •        The benefits and drawbacks of interest on a credit account
  •        How income and employment are related

The concepts taught to high school students are quite similar to the concepts taught to adults, but the framework is different. With high school students, you are talking about the near future, whereas with adults you are talking about their current state.

Lesson Plans for High School Students

As you can see, these lesson plans focus on real-world experiences that students will need to be prepared for as adults. There is a stronger focus on home buying and investing in the 9 through 12 grade years as well.

  •        Financial Planning Unit Plan – This high school lesson plan unit has 22 lessons on money managing, home buying, investing and more.
  •        Can I Afford This House – This high school lesson plan helps students learn to evaluate whether or not they can afford a house that is actually for sale in their actual location using an Internet-based search and math concepts for budgeting.
  •        Buying a Home – A high school lesson plan that walks students through the process of buying a home.
  •        The Math of House Buying – This advanced math lesson plan looks at the math behind buying homes and getting mortgages.
  •        The Business of Interest – This lesson teaches students what interest is and how banks use it to make money.
  •        Credit Reports and Credit Scores – This lesson focuses on teaching high school students about their credit report and credit score and how it affects their ability to get credit.
  •        Pop Goes the Housing Bubble – The “Housing Bubble” was an interesting real estate concept in recent years, and this lesson plan looks at how it affects the real estate markets for today’s high school students. While not math specific, this lesson plan is important to understanding real estate investment.
  •        A Beginner’s Introduction to Real Estate Investing – For students with an interest in real estate investing, this series of video lessons could be helpful.
  •        Steps to Purchase a Home – This lesson plan puts students in groups and takes them through the steps of purchasing a home, including planning for a budget and the needs of a family.
  •        Renting Vs. Owning a Home – This lesson for 9-12 grade looks at whether renting or buying a home makes the most sense for people in various stages of life.
  •        Credit: Buy Now & Pay More Later – Introduces students in grades 9-12 to the cost of credit and what using a credit card means for their financial future.
  •        Buying vs. Renting – Another lesson teaching students to make the best choice between buying and renting a home.
  •        Mortgages and Interest – A lesson plan on mortgages, interest and the concept of compound interest for students in grades 9 through 12.

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Additional Information and Resources for Teachers

Sometimes, teachers need to improve their own understanding of specific concepts before teaching them to students. This is particularly true for finance related concepts, and for math teachers who are given the task of teaching personal finance or economics courses, but may not have training in these subjects. If you are finding your own ideas about mortgages and home buying or real estate investment are lacking, here are some resources for more information.

In addition, here are some resources where you may be able to find additional information on investment and real estate topics, as well as lesson plans that do not fit within the specific standards discussed above:


Autism is running prevalent today.  My question was, is it getting worse or is it easier to detect due to new brain spects and other technology.  I think it is a little of both.  I enjoyed learning the facts below.   I have great appreciation for all of you parenting and working with these precious children.  Enjoy the following from the Autism Society.  ~Sandy

What is Autism:

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability; signs typically appear during early childhood and affect a person’s ability to communicate, and interact with others. ASD is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum condition” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause of autism, but increased awareness and early diagnosis/intervention and access to appropriate services/supports lead to significantly improved outcomes. Some of the behaviors associated with autism include delayed learning of language; difficulty making eye contact or holding a conversation; difficulty with executive functioning, which relates to reasoning and planning; narrow, intense interests; poor motor skills’ and sensory sensitivities. Again, a person on the spectrum might follow many of these behaviors or just a few, or many others besides. The diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder is applied based on analysis of all behaviors and their severity.

In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued their ADDM autism prevalence report. The report concluded that the prevalence of autism had risen to 1 in every 68 births in the United States – nearly twice as great as the 2004 rate of 1 in 125 – and almost 1 in 54 boys. The spotlight shining on autism as a result has opened opportunities for the nation to consider how to serve families facing a lifetime of supports for their children. In June 2014, researchers estimated the lifetime cost of caring for a child with autism is as great as $2.4 million. The Autism Society estimates that the United States is facing almost $90 billion annually in costs for autism. (This figure includes research, insurance costs and non-covered expenses, Medicaid waivers for autism, educational spending, housing, transportation, employment, related therapeutic services and caregiver costs.)

Know the signs: Early identification can change lives

Autism is treatable. Children do not “outgrow” autism, but studies show that early diagnosis and intervention lead to significantly improved outcomes. For more information on developmental milestones, visit the CDC’s “Know the Signs. Act Early” site.


  • Lack of or delay in spoken language
  • Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)
  • Little or no eye contact
  • Lack of interest in peer relationships
  • Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
  • Persistent fixation on parts of objects


The characteristic behaviors of autism spectrum disorder may be apparent in infancy (18 to 24 months), but they usually become clearer during early childhood (24 months to 6 years).

As part of a well-baby or well-child visit, your child’s doctor should perform a “developmental screening,” asking specific questions about your baby’s progress. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) lists five behaviors that warrant further evaluation:

  • Does not babble or coo by 12 months
  • Does not gesture (point, wave, grasp) by 12 months
  • Does not say single words by 16 months
  • Does not say two-word phrases on his or her own by 24 months
  • Has any loss of any language or social skill at any age

Any of these five “red flags” does not mean your child has autism. But because the disorder’s symptoms vary so widely, a child showing these behaviors should be evaluated by a multidisciplinary team. This team might include a neurologist, psychologist, developmental pediatrician, speech/language therapist, learning consultant or other professionals who are knowledgeable about autism.

For more information, visit the Infants and Toddlers page or the CDC’s “Learn the Signs. Act Early” program.


When parents or support providers become concerned that their child is not following a typical developmental course, they turn to experts, including psychologists, educators and medical professionals, for a diagnosis.

At first glance, some people with autism may appear to have an intellectual disability, sensory processing issues, or problems with hearing or vision. To complicate matters further, these conditions can co-occur with autism. However, it is important to distinguish autism from other conditions, as an accurate and early autism diagnosis can provide the basis for an appropriate educational and treatment program.

Other medical conditions or syndromes, such as sensory processing disorder, can present symptoms that are confusingly similar to autism’s. This is known as differential diagnosis.

There are many differences between a medical diagnosis and an educational determination, or school evaluation, of a disability. A medical diagnosis is made by a physician based on an assessment of symptoms and diagnostic tests. A medical diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, for instance, is most frequently made by a physician according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5, released 2013) of the American Psychological Association. This manual guides physicians in diagnosing autism spectrum disorder according to a specific number of symptoms.

A brief observation in a single setting cannot present a true picture of someone’s abilities and behaviors. The person’s developmental history and input from parents, caregivers and/or teachers are important components of an accurate diagnosis.

An educational determination is made by a multidisciplinary evaluation team of various school professionals. The evaluation results are reviewed by a team of qualified professionals and the parents to determine whether a student qualifies for special education and related services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (Hawkins, 2009).


There is no known single cause for autism spectrum disorder, but it is generally accepted that it is caused by abnormalities in brain structure or function. Brain scans show differences in the shape and structure of the brain in children with autism compared to in neurotypical children. Researchers do not know the exact cause of autism but are investigating a number of theories, including the links among heredity, genetics and medical problems.

In many families, there appears to be a pattern of autism or related disabilities, further supporting the theory that the disorder has a genetic basis. While no one gene has been identified as causing autism, researchers are searching for irregular segments of genetic code that children with autism may have inherited. It also appears that some children are born with a susceptibility to autism, but researchers have not yet identified a single “trigger” that causes autism to develop.

Other researchers are investigating the possibility that under certain conditions, a cluster of unstable genes may interfere with brain development, resulting in autism. Still other researchers are investigating problems during pregnancy or delivery as well as environmental factors such as viral infections, metabolic imbalances and exposure to chemicals.

Genetic Vulnerability

Autism tends to occur more frequently than expected among individuals who have certain medical conditions, including fragile X syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, congenital rubella syndrome and untreated phenylketonuria (PKU). Some harmful substances ingested during pregnancy also have been associated with an increased risk of autism.


About 1 percent of the world population has autism spectrum disorder. (CDC, 2014)

Prevalence in the United States is estimated at 1 in 68 births. (CDC, 2014)

More than 3.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder. (Buescher et al., 2014)

Prevalence of autism in U.S. children increased by 119.4 percent from 2000 (1 in 150) to 2010 (1 in 68). (CDC, 2014) Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability. (CDC, 2008)

Prevalence has increased by 6-15 percent each year from 2002 to 2010. (Based on biennial numbers from the CDC)

Autism services cost U.S. citizens $236-262 billion annually. (Buescher et al., 2014)

A majority of costs in the U.S. are in adult services – $175-196 billion, compared to $61-66 billion for children. (Buescher et al., 2014)

Cost of lifelong care can be reduced by 2/3 with early diagnosis and intervention. (Autism. 2007 Sep;11(5):453-63; The economic consequences of autistic spectrum disorder among children in a Swedish municipality. Järbrink K1.)

1 percent of the adult population of the United Kingdom has autism spectrum disorder. (Brugha T.S. et al., 2011)

The U.S. cost of autism over the lifespan is about $2.4 million for a person with an intellectual disability, or $1.4 million for a person without intellectual disability. (Buescher et al., 2014)

35 percent of young adults (ages 19-23) with autism have not had a job or received postgraduate education after leaving high school. (Shattuck et al., 2012)

It costs more than $8,600 extra per year to educate a student with autism. (Lavelle et al., 2014) (The average cost of educating a student is about $12,000 – NCES, 2014)

In June 2014, only 19.3 percent of people with disabilities in the U.S. were participating in the labor force – working or seeking work. Of those, 12.9 percent were unemployed, meaning only 16.8 percent of the population with disabilities was employed. (By contrast, 69.3 percent of people without disabilities were in the labor force, and 65 percent of the population without disabilities was employed.) (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014)