The growing number of children identified as autistic — and the steep cost of educating them — is fueling a boom in public school programs.
In Bergenfield, a dozen preschool students are attending the inaugural class of the TriValley Academy, a collaborative effort with New Milford and Dumont. Districts including Leonia and West Paterson also opened new autism classrooms this month.
Existing programs are growing quickly. Hawthorne, Paterson and Teaneck have added classes. A two-year-old program for teenagers run by the Bergen County Special Services School District grew 50 percent this fall.
Public awareness of the disorder is at an all-time high, and more children are being classified as autistic under special-education rules. Plus, the state’s stellar reputation for autism programs has attracted families from all over the country, creating demand for more services.