Changing Identification Rates for Special Education Children


In September of 2009, Christina Samuels writing in Education News Colorado, reports on the drop of over-identification of learning disability enrollments:


The percentage of 3- to 21-year-old students nationwide classified as having a “specific learning disability” dropped steadily from 6.1 percent in the 2000-01 school year to 5.2 percent in 2007-08, according to the most recent data available, which comes from the U.S Department of Education’s 2009 Digest of Education Statistics. In numbers, that’s a drop from about 2.9 million students to 2.6 million students.


There is a small tendency for a decrease in special education enrollments overall.


One would argue the drop results from IDEA 1997 and 2004 regulations addressing issues of placement criteria, such as discouraging the the use of the discrepancy model by school psychologists.  Samuels reports though that many experts attribute the drop to better reading instruction through early intervention and response to intervention.


At the same time, though, enrollment of students classified as having an autism spectrum disorder or “other health impairment” rose.


The historic evidence indicates that minority children have been shuffled around special education categories.  Early on they were heavily placed in the mental retardation category, and later learning disability. Now it is possible that some minority children who are perceived as disruptive in the classroom are being shifted to autism and OHI (including hyperactivity).  The overall decrease in special education is relatively low.


School districts across states may receive high reimbusement from the autism and OHI categories.  




SLPs are often on the eligibility team to place LD children, and they render a vote for enrollment.  SLPs can vote against placement where  appropriate reading instruction is not evident. SLPs can promote preschool and RTI programming to improve reading and cut down on placements.  SLPs are chief evaluators in the school setting. They also make recommendations for children with articulation and phonological disorders, often linked to LD and processing problems.



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