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Persons With Disabilities

Special Education Services
Elementary/secondary school-age children with disabilities have a variety of special needs that must be met if they are to benefit from educational experiences. Of children 6 to 17 years old in 1991-92, an estimated 2,995,000 had a disability, about 7 percent of the population. [3] For 2,200,000 of these individuals, the disability was a limitation in their ability to do regular school work. More than 700,000 children had a severe disability. (See appendix table 2-18.) The limitation in ability to do school work was greater for males than for females in both younger (6 to 14 years) and older (15 to 17 years) students. The sexes were comparable in the percentages with severe disabilities, which were higher among older than younger students. (See figure 2-12.) The presence of severe disabilities in older students was more than twice as high for blacks than for whites or Hispanics (5.5 percent of blacks had severe disabilities, compared with 2.6 percent of whites and 2.3 percent of Hispanics). (See figure 2-13.)

Figure 2-12 Figure 2-13

Special Education Services Up arrow

Approximately 12 percent of the students in public schools are served in federally supported special education programs. (See appendix table 2-20.) Although it is not a complete count of the population with disabilities, this figure provides a baseline for estimating the present level of services provided. The diversity of need for educational services, as well as the extent of need, may be better understood by noting the range of disabilities reflected in the counts of students served. By far the largest single segment of this group, 45 percent, is composed of persons with specific learning disabilities (which may encompass a variety of different conditions). The next largest group, 20 percent of the total with disabilities, have speech or language impairments. About 1 percent each have orthopedic, hearing, or other impairments, while 2 percent have multiple disabilities. About one-half of 1 percent have visual impairments. Increases in the reported numbers of students served reflect in part changes in legislation requiring that public schools provide special education services to all children 3 to 5 years old.
The environments whereby students are introduced to science, engineering, and mathematics are important aspects of access to these disciplines. Depending on the nature of their disability, students may be served in regular classrooms and be provided with special services via a resource room, or receive instruction at a variety of special sites. Given the often equipment- or facility-intensive needs for instruction in science, especially in higher levels of education, access to science could vary widely for these students. Students with speech or language impairments are most likely to be served in regular classrooms, with nearly 80 percent receiving their instruction in these settings and an additional 14 percent receiving assistance in resource rooms. Hence, a total of 94 percent of these students have access to science instruction similar to that of their classmates. (See appendix table 2-21.) For students with other disabilities, this combination of instructional environments is available to 86 percent of students with learning disabilities, 67 percent of those with visual impairments, 52 percent of those with orthopedic impairments, and 47 percent of those with hearing impairments. (See figure 2-14.)

Figure 2-14

Approximately 7 percent of students receive services through programs for students with disabilities, about the same proportion of the student populations who receive services through gifted and talented programs. Nine percent of students receive diagnostic and prescriptive services. (See appendix table 2-22.) At the same time, 11 percent of all students receive remedial reading instruction and 7 percent receive remedial mathematics instruction.


3. The survey cited here, Survey of Income and Program Participation, used a functional definition of disability that specifies the extent of the limitation a person experiences in carrying out a variety of customary tasks, such as doing regular school work or ability to walk or run. (See Technical Notes and McNeil 1993.) Up arrow
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