The spring 2012 issue of the Future of Children Journal, Children with Disabilities, explores the prevalence, nature, treatment, and consequences of childhood disability. The Journal, released on May 6th, consists of a series of nine articles addressing various aspects, trends, and the long-term financial impact of childhood disability. The Journal reveals that the most prevalent conditions in children with disabilities are mental health disorders, as opposed to physical conditions such as asthma. In 2008-09, the top five reported disabilities in children were behavioral or developmental; more than one in five parents reported that their child had attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). According to the Journal, ADHD is almost three times more likely than asthma to contribute to childhood disability.
One article in the Journal addresses disability and the education system and documents a significant movement from exclusion of children with disabilities to inclusion. The 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) made public education more accessible to children with disabilities by establishing the rights of children with disabilities to receive a free appropriate public education and, to the extent possible, to be included in classroom instruction alongside their peers without disabilities. Before the enactment of IDEA, 3.5 million children with disabilities attended public schools; many “were warehoused in segregated facilities with little or no effective instruction.” Thirty years later, in the 2004-05 school year, more that 6.7 million children were receiving special education and related services in public schools, almost 14% of all students nationally. However, according to the article, the number of special education students has been declining in recent years; for the 2009-10 school year, there were 6.5 million special education students (about 13% of all students). The decline may be partially reflective of changes in the definitions of disabilities and how children with disabilities are identified.
Other articles in the Journal include discussions on the economic costs of childhood disability, disability and health insurance, and emerging technologies and their impact on disability. The full Journal is available at http://futureofchildren.org.