Students With Disabilities

Students with disabilities include students who have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and those who have a 504 accommodations plan. In grades K-12, students with IEPs account for about 13% of the school-age population. Accurate counts of students with 504 plans are not available, but some studies have indicated that they comprise 1% or less of the school-age population.

Students with disabilities who have IEPs may be identified as having one or more of 13 disability categories recognized in federal policy (see Figure 1 below). The categories and the approximate percentage of all students with IEPs (in 2016-17) are:

  • Autism (10%) 
  • Deaf Blind (<1%)
  • Developmental Delay (3%)
  • Emotional Disturbance (6%)
  • Hearing Impairment and Deafness (1%)
  • Intellectual Disability (7%) 
  • Multiple Disabilities (2%)
  • Other Health Impairment (15%)
  • Orthopedic Impairment (<1%)
  • Specific Learning Disability (38%)
  • Speech Language Impairment (17%)
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (<1%)
  • Visual Impairment and Blindness (<1%)

The percentages of some of the disability categories change with grade level. For example, speech language impairments are more prevalent in the earlier grades. Data on numbers of students in the categories of disability are collected each year through a child count process. Annual reports of these data may be found on the U.S. Department of Education website.


Figure 1. Percent of Students Ages 6 through 21 Served Under IDEA, Part B by Disability Category*  

Percent of Students Ages 6 through 21 Served Under IDEA, Part B by Disability Category

*Other disabilities combined includes deaf-blindness (less than 0.02%), developmental delay (2.6%), hearing impairments (1.1%), multiple disabilities (2.1%), orthopedic impairments (0.6%), traumatic brain injury (0.4%), and visual impairments (0.4%).

Data source: Child Count and Educational Environments 2016-17, data were extracted on 4/9/2018. Population: only includes age 6-21 in 50 states.