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Shift Seen In Special Education Demographics

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The percentage of American students in special education grew significantly between the 1970s and now, though numbers have remained relatively stable in recent years, according to newly released statistics.

The information released in an annual report from the National Center for Education Statistics provides a snapshot of the educational landscape across the country based on the most recently available data.

While the size of the special education population is largely stable these days, the makeup of the group is in flux. The percentage of public school students with autism, for example, grew threefold since the 2000-01 school year to reach 0.6 percent in 2007-08. During the same period, the percentage of students with intellectual disability declined from 1.3 percent to 1 percent.

The overwhelming majority of students with disabilities — 95 percent — are served in regular public schools, while just 3 percent attend schools catering exclusively to those with disabilities. Meanwhile, 1 percent of these students were placed at traditional private schools by their parents and even fewer students attend school at a residential placement, on a homebound basis, in a hospital or correctional facility.

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