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Facts From NLTS2: Secondary School Experiences of Students With Autism
NCSER 2007-3005
April 2007

Students' Course Taking

Most secondary school students with autism under the auspices of school districts attend public schools (97 percent)8. Overall, more than 4 out of 5 (84 percent) attend regular schools that serve a wide variety of students, and about 12 percent attend special schools that serve only students with disabilities. The other 4 percent attend charter, magnet, alternative, hospital, or home schools. Among 14- through 18-year-olds with autism, almost 10 percent attend middle or junior high schools, and 75 percent attend high schools. Multilevel schools (e.g., kindergarten through 12th grade) are attended by about 15 percent of students with autism. The relatively small proportion of students with disabilities attending middle schools means that, for the most part, the findings in this fact sheet represent the experiences of students with autism in high schools.

More than 9 out of 10 secondary students with autism (92 percent)9 take at least one academic subject in a given semester (figure 1). Most take language arts (89 percent) and mathematics (90 percent); somewhat fewer take social studies (69 percent) or science (67 percent). A foreign language is taken less often than other kinds of academic courses, with 12 percent of secondary students with autism enrolled in a foreign language course. Academic courses account for almost half (46 percent) of the courses students with autism take in a given semester, on average.

Figure 1. Course taking in a semester by students with autism

Many students with autism (77 percent) also take vocational education courses in a given semester. Enrollment in occupationally specific vocational education is about equally likely as enrollment in pre-vocational education (61 percent of vocational education students take each kind of course). Vocational education courses account for 19 percent of the courses students with autism take in a given semester, or approximately one course in a student's course schedule.

Nonacademic courses other than vocational education are included among the courses taken by 96 percent of secondary school students with autism. Approximately three-quarters (74 percent) are enrolled in physical education, 71 percent take life skills courses, 63 percent take fine arts courses, and approximately one-third (35 percent) are enrolled in study skills courses. On average, these courses make up 35 percent of the kinds of courses taken by students with autism in a given semester.


8 NLTS2 students were chosen from rosters of students receiving special education from or through public school districts. Although districts were instructed to include all students for whom they were responsible in the rosters they provided for NLTS2 regardless of where the students went to school or the types of schools attended (e.g. private schools; see footnote 1), it is possible that districts under-reported students served in non-public-school placements, thereby increasing the proportion of students reported to be attending public schools.

9 One purpose of the student's school program survey was to obtain a snapshot of each student's school program in terms of the range of courses taken at the time and the setting for each of these courses. Data reported here are for the student's spring 2002 courses.