New federal data shows that there are more children in special education and they are accounting for a greater percentage of public school students across the country. 

For the 2017-2018 school year, there were 7 million students ages 3 to 21 receiving services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. These students represented 14% of all kids attending public schools!

These figures were released in May by the U.S. Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics and it offers a snapshot of what’s happening in American education.

Between 2011 and 2018, the number of students served under IDEA increased from 6.4 million to 7 million and the percentage served increased from 13% to 14% for total public school enrollment.

Of children in special education, the largest group (34%) had a specific learning disability. Roughly 1 in 5 had a speech or language impairment and 14% were classified as having other health impairment.

Autism accounted for 10% of special ed students while 7% had a developmental delay and 6% had an intellectual disability.

Most students with disabilities ages 6-21 spent at lease 80% of the day in general education classrooms, but the odds of inclusion varied by disability type. While 65% of kids with a developmental delay were in regular classes most of the time, just 17% of those with an intellectual disability and only 14% of children with multiple disabilities were.

Among special education students who left school in 2017, 71% received a regular diploma, but that figure drops to 43% for students with intellectual disabilities.

These growing numbers show that integration works. That more students with learning disabilities are identified earlier and that can help their outcome to be more independent in the future.

It’s also important, besides providing protection for education with IEP’s and the IDEA that we continue help for these youth with transition services, so they can move on to post education or employment.


Dana Gover, MPA, and ACTCP Certification, ADA Training and Technical Assistance Coordinator 

For more information about ADA Technical Assistance visit the NW ADA Center Idaho website:
Phone: Voice and Text 208-841-9422
Idaho Relay Service: 7