The State of Learning Disabilities: A New Report

Advocacy report on learning disabilities - awareness

This report, from the National Center for Learning Disabilities, is now available for reading and can be downloaded.

The National Center for Learning Disabilities, a leading advocacy group, just came out with a report, The State of Learning Disabilities: Understanding the 1 in 5. That figure, one in five, or 20 percent, refers to the number of students who have a learning disability, such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or dyslexia. This population is very much misunderstood; all too often, these children are (mis)labeled as lazy or unmotivated or just not as smart as their peers. More often than not, these labels are untrue. Not only are these students at risk of failing school, but also they all too often struggle finding or keeping employment and are disproportionately represented in the prison population.

Despite one in five students having some sort of learning disability, according to this report, only one in 16 receive proper special-education services with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and only one in 50 receive services under Section 504.  This detailed report covers the following:

  • The neuroscience, stigma, and federal laws concerning these students
  • How to identify struggling students
  • Supporting academic success
  • The social, emotional, and behavioral challenges these students face and pose
  • Issues regarding the transitioning to life after high school
  • Recommended policies.

The report provides summaries for each state, with “key data points and comparisons to national averages in several areas such as inclusion in general education classrooms, disciplinary incidents and dropout rates for students with learning and attention issues.”

The bibliographic citation for this report is:

Horowitz, S. H., Rawe, J., & Whittaker, M. C. (2017). The State of Learning Disabilities: Understanding the 1 in 5. New York: National Center for Learning Disabilities.


IDEA at 40 – Progress and Challenges


Forty years ago this week, November 29, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed into law the Education for All Handicapped Children Act; today, we know this landmark as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and its acronym, IDEA.  This landmark civil rights law ensured that every student had the right to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).  According to the Office of Special Education Programs, “… special education and related services [must be] designed to meet the child’s unique needs and … prepare the child for further education, employment, and independent living.” 

FAPE was defined two years earlier, under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973: “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States… shall, solely by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program actively receiving Federal assistance.”    Since then, according to the U.S. Department of Education, 62 percent of students with disabilities are in classrooms with their general-education peers at least 80 percent of the day.  The progress is well expressed in a recent video.

On November 17, the U.S. Department of Education held a live conference on the progress and challenges associated with IDEA.

It is worth looking back on the life of Elizabeth Farrell, the extraordinary teacher who “made special education special.”

Elizabeth Farrell and the History of Special Education

Parents, teachers, and administrators can find additional resources through IDEAs That Work.  In addition, Education Week has provided a handy reference “cheat sheet.”

In addition, to be sure, much work still needs to be done; the need for direct advocacy services is still great; many agencies, parent advocacy organizations, and support groups can offer assistance.