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Students with disabilities

Question:
How many students with disabilities receive services?

Response:

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), enacted in 1975, mandates that children and youth ages 3–21 with disabilities be provided a free and appropriate public school education. The overall percentage of students being served by federally supported special education programs was 14.1 percent in 2018–19. This was slightly higher than in 2004–05 (13.8 percent), but reflected a 5.8 percentage point increase from 8.3 percent in 1976–77, immediately following the passage of IDEA. Much of the growth in the percentage of students served in programs for those with disabilities is attributable to concurrent increases in the percentage of students identified as having specific learning disabilities, from 1.8 percent in 1976–77 to 5.7 percent in 2004–05. After 2004–05, the percentage of children identified as having specific learning disabilities declined from 5.7 percent of total public school enrollment to 4.7 percent in 2018–19. However, there were different patterns of change in the percentages of students served with some specific conditions between 2004–05 and 2018–19. The percentage of children identified as having autism rose from 0.4 to 1.5 percent of total public school enrollment; the percentage identified as having a developmental delay rose from 0.7 to 0.9 percent; and the percentage with other health impairments (limited strength, vitality, or alertness due to chronic or acute health problems such as a heart condition, tuberculosis, rheumatic fever, nephritis, asthma, sickle cell anemia, hemophilia, epilepsy, lead poisoning, leukemia, or diabetes) rose from 1.1 to 2.1 percent. In contrast, the percentage identified as having speech or language impairments decreased from 3.0 to 2.7 percent and the percentage with intellectual disabilities decreased from 1.2 to 0.9 percent.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2021). Digest of Education Statistics, 2019 (NCES 2021-009), Chapter 2.

Children 3 to 21 years old served under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part B, by type of disability: Selected years, 1976–77 through 2018–19
Type of disability 1976–77 1980–81 1990–91 2000–01 2008–091 2009–10 2010–11 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14 2014–15 2015–16 2016–172,3 2017–182,4 2018–192
Number of children served (in thousands)
All disabilities 3,694 4,144 4,710 6,296 6,483 6,481 6,436 6,401 6,429 6,464 6,555 6,677 6,802 6,964 7,134
Autism 93 336 378 417 455 498 538 576 617 661 710 762
Deaf-blindness 3 1 1 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 2
Developmental delay 213 354 368 382 393 402 410 419 434 446 461 479
Emotional disturbance 283 347 389 480 420 407 390 373 362 354 349 347 348 353 358
Hearing impairment 88 79 58 77 78 79 78 78 77 77 76 75 75 75 74
Intellectual disability 961 830 534 624 478 463 448 435 430 425 423 425 431 436 439
Multiple disabilities 68 96 131 130 131 130 132 133 132 132 131 132 132 133
Orthopedic impairment 87 58 49 82 70 65 63 61 59 56 52 47 42 41 39
Other health impairment5 141 98 55 303 659 689 716 743 779 817 862 909 955 1,002 1,049
Preschool disabled6 390
Specific learning disability 796 1,462 2,129 2,860 2,476 2,431 2,361 2,303 2,277 2,264 2,278 2,298 2,318 2,342 2,368
Speech or language impairment 1,302 1,168 985 1,388 1,426 1,416 1,396 1,373 1,356 1,334 1,332 1,337 1,337 1,357 1,378
Traumatic brain injury 16 26 25 26 26 26 26 26 27 27 27 27
Visual impairment 38 31 23 29 29 29 28 28 28 28 28 27 27 27 27
Number of children served as a percent of total enrollment7
All disabilities 8.3 10.1 11.4 13.3 13.2 13.1 13.0 12.9 12.9 12.9 13.0 13.2 13.4 13.7 14.1
Autism 0.2 0.7 0.8 0.8 0.9 1.0 1.1 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5
Deaf-blindness # # # # # # # # # # # # # #
Developmental delay 0.5 0.7 0.7 0.8 0.8 0.8 0.8 0.8 0.9 0.9 0.9 0.9
Emotional disturbance 0.6 0.8 0.9 1.0 0.9 0.8 0.8 0.8 0.7 0.7 0.7 0.7 0.7 0.7 0.7
Hearing impairment 0.2 0.2 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1
Intellectual disability 2.2 2.0 1.3 1.3 1.0 0.9 0.9 0.9 0.9 0.9 0.8 0.8 0.9 0.9 0.9
Multiple disabilities 0.2 0.2 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3
Orthopedic impairment 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1
Other health impairment5 0.3 0.2 0.1 0.6 1.3 1.4 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 2.0 2.1
Preschool disabled6 0.9
Specific learning disability 1.8 3.6 5.2 6.1 5.0 4.9 4.8 4.7 4.6 4.5 4.5 4.6 4.6 4.6 4.7
Speech or language impairment 2.9 2.9 2.4 2.9 2.9 2.9 2.8 2.8 2.7 2.7 2.6 2.7 2.6 2.7 2.7
Traumatic brain injury # 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1
Visual impairment 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1

— Not available.
† Not applicable.
# Rounds to zero.
1Data do not include Vermont, for which 2007–08 and 2008–09 data were not available. In 2006–07, the total number of 3- to 21-year-olds served in Vermont was 14,010.
2Data in the 2016–17, 2017–18, and 2018–19 columns include 2015–16 data for 3- to 21-year-olds in Wisconsin because 2016–17, 2017–18, and 2018–19 data were not available for children served in Wisconsin.
3Data in the 2016–17 column include 2015–16 data for 3- to 5-year-olds in Nebraska because 2016–17 data were not available for children in that age group served in Nebraska.
4Data in the 2017–18 column include 2016–17 data for 3- to 5-year-olds in Minnesota and 6- to 21-year-olds in Maine and Vermont because 2017–18 data were not available for children in those age groups served in those states.
5Other health impairments include having limited strength, vitality, or alertness due to chronic or acute health problems such as a heart condition, tuberculosis, rheumatic fever, nephritis, asthma, sickle cell anemia, hemophilia, epilepsy, lead poisoning, leukemia, or diabetes.
6For 1990–91, preschool children are not included in the counts by disability condition, but are separately reported. For other years, preschool children are included in the counts by disability condition.
7Based on total public school enrollment in prekindergarten through 12th grade. For total public school enrollment, see table 203.20.
NOTE: Prior to October 1994, children and youth with disabilities were served under Chapter 1 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as well as under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part B. Data reported in this table for years prior to 1994–95 include children ages 0–21 served under Chapter 1 of ESEA. Data are for the 50 states and the District of Columbia only. Increases since 1987–88 are due in part to new legislation enacted in fall 1986, which added a mandate for public school special education services for 3- to 5-year-old children with disabilities. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2021). Digest of Education Statistics, 2019 (NCES 2021-009), Table 204.30.

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