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Chartbook on Disability in the U.S.

Section 4: Disability, the Elderly, Children and Youth

4.5. How many children and youth receive special education?

In the United States, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, 5.4 million children and youth age 3 to 21 with disabling conditions are served under of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), Chapter 1- State Operated Programs (SOP) and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part B. These two federal programs provide special education funding for disabled children and youth from birth through age 21.

Of children ages 6-21, 51.1% have specific learning disabilities, 21.1% have speech or language impairments, 11.6% have mental retardation, and 8.7% have serious emotional disturbance.

These rates vary by age. The largest groups for 6 to 11 year olds are learning disability (41.4%) and speech impairment (36.3%). Learning disability is by far the largest category for the 12 to 17 year olds (62.6%). The largest groups for ages 18 to 21 years old are learning disabilities (50.2%) and mental retardation (26.5%).

More than half of special education students have specific learning disabilities.

Figure 4.5

Source: Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, 1995

Survey: OSEP state reported data, 1993-94 school year

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