Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Don Peek - How Many Disabled Students Do We Have?

Special Needs Topics with Don Peek

This post is authored by Don Peek, a former educator and past president of the training division of Renaissance Learning. He now runs The School Funding Center, a company that provides grant information and grant-writing services to schools. To learn more, or to subscribe to the School Funding Center Grant Database, go to schoolfundingcenter.

How Many Disabled Students Do We Have?

In my last post I discussed the different disability levels that might be assigned to students.  These levels were:  none, mild, moderate, and severe.  Those levels make it more difficult for the classroom teacher to address the specific disability of each student.  Why?  It would be difficult enough if a teacher had only one disabled student, or even a group of students with the same disability.  That’s not the case.  Most teachers have to contend with several disabled students at the same time.   Most often those students have different disabilities, and even when two of their students have the same disability, those disabilities are often diagnosed to be at different levels.

This makes many special education classrooms much like the old one-room schools.  Teachers doing their jobs properly might be teaching different subjects at different levels with different materials.  Most regular education English, math, or science teachers would tell you that such a task is impossible--- and even if it were possible, not to expect any great results. 

That is why special education classes are often small and a teacher’s aide is found in the classroom alongside the teacher.  Small class size and extra personnel units make special education very expensive.  A huge amount of money is often spent for very small academic, emotional, or physical gains.  Specialized materials and equipment are also expensive and run up the cost of special education services.

How could the cost be so high when there are such a small percentage of disabled students in the United States?  I think you might be surprised.  At last count, the U.S. had 6,483,000 disabled students between the ages of 3 and 21 years of age.  That was more than 13.2% of the total enrollment.  Of those, 95% were served by public schools.

Listed are the thirteen types of disabilities and the approximate number of disabled students in each category:
Specific learning disabilities – 2,476,000

Speech or language impairments – 1,426,000

Intellectual disabilities – 478,000

Emotional disabilities – 420,000

Hearing impairments – 78,000

Orthopedic impairments – 70,000

Other health impairments – 659,000

Visual impairments – 29,000

Multiple disabilities – 130,000

Deaf-blindness – 2,000

Autism – 336,000

Traumatic brain injury – 26,000

Developmental delay – 354,000

In the old days, many of these students would never have gone to public school.  Some of them would have even been locked away in their own homes.  Fortunately, we live in a country that doesn’t allow that.  We know that special education is expensive, but we also believe it is the right of every child to get a free education.  That education can help many of these disabled students become productive citizens, but we need our best teachers, our best materials, and our best equipment on the job helping these students to make all the progress they can.

Grant Info:
Grant Name:  Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation Educational Grants
Funded By:  Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation
Description:  Giving on a national basis, with emphasis on areas of company operations; giving also to national organizations to support programs designed to advance the independence, productivity, and community of young people with disabilities. Special emphasis is directed toward programs designed to have a national scope and impact, with preference to those that are inclusive of youth with and without disabilities. No grants to individuals, or for endowments, capital campaigns, equipment or devices for individual users, fund raising events, controversial social or political issues, or local activities without national impact; no loans. No support for religious organizations not of direct benefit to the entire community, intermediary organizations, fraternal, labor, political, or lobbying organizations, discriminatory organizations, or individual schools or school districts.

Program Areas:  Community Involvement/Volunteerism, Disabilities, General Education, Math, Reading, Science/Environment, Social Studies, Special Education
Recipients:  Public School, Private School, Higher Education, Other

Proposal Deadline:  6/1/12

Total Annual Amount Given:  $657,000.00
Telephone:  703-276-8240

Availability:  All States


  1. Throughout this article, all I heard and could retain was "DISABLE CHILDREN" WHAT?! that disturbs me. I am really disappointed
    The title of this article is "TEACHING CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS"
    So I assumed the person writing this would have the knowledge to know there is no DISABLED PERSON, the child who has special needs, has a disability not the disability has a child.
    As a parent of a "CHILD WITH DISABILITIES" I am offended by this discriminating terminology.

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