Special Education

A Rising Tide of Disabilities

November 29, 2000 1 min read

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Over the past 25 years, the number of students with disabilities has increased, and new categories of disability have been created.

Categories 1976- 77 1987- 88 1997- 98
Autism1 0 0 42,487
Deaf-blindness1 0 1,426 1,454
Developmental delay1 0 0 1,935
Hearing impairments 55,116 56,742 69,537
Mental retardation 818,718 596,928 602,111
Multiple disabilities1 0 78,588 106,758
Orthopedic impairments 70,566 46,837 67,422
Other health impairments2 115,867 46,013 190,935
(Serious) emotional disturbance3 245,343 372,048 454,363
Specific learning disabilities 782,095 1,937,827 2,748,497
Speech or language impairments 1,170,531 951,512 1,065,074
Visual impairments 26,215 22,769, 26,015
Traumatic brain injury 0 0 11,895
Total, all disabilities1 3,284,019 4,110,690 5,388,483
1These categories were created in amendments to the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act after 1975. 2“Other health impairments” includes attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. 3“Serious emotional disturbance” was renamed “emotional disturbance” in 1997.

A version of this article appeared in the November 29, 2000 edition of Education Week as A Rising Tide of Disabilities

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