New York State has a total of 2,457,691 students. Only 13.9%,(385,763) are classified under the IDEA. Learning Disability is the largest category of classification, encompassing 36% of all classified students, followed by Speech or Language Impairment (26%). 16% of classified students are grouped in Other Health Impaired (OHI). Autism and Emotional disturbance (ED) are neck in neck, accounting for 6% and 7% of classified students, respectively. 4% of students are classified as having multiple disabilities and 3% with intellectual disability. The remaining categories of hearing, orthopedic and visual impairment are represented by 1% of classified students in each category.*
Since assigning a student one label or another can be a negotiated, these numbers are not necessarily an exact measure of the students falling within each classification. Thus, some students in the OHI category might arguably be considered ED, LD or Speech/Language impaired. As members of the IEP formulation team, parents have input into the classification assigned, but getting classification at all is the important consideration; the services and placements offered are supposed to be driven by the child’s needs rather than the label.
The, there are the phantom students – the ones who haven’t been, but should be counted as part of the 13.9%. These phantoms are children school districts have avoided evaluating at all. They also include those students for whom 504 plans have been provided are actually IDEA students hiding in plain sight. What these statistics do illustrate, however, is that ours is a is a small community and that must be powerful in voice.
*These statistics are from “New York’s State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP) for Results Driven Accountability in Special Education Stakeholder Meeting Special Education
Technical Assistance Networks,” October 29, 2014, http://media.wix.com/ugd/10c789_01ae2271dcd9460db847f1c96648d9d6.pdf