An increasing number of American schoolchildren are receiving special education services and nearly all of them spend at least some of their day in class with their typically-developing peers.

New data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that over 6.3 million children ages 6 to 21 were served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in 2018, the most recent year for which information is available. That accounts for 9.5% of all students, up from 8.5% in 2009.

The figures were released recently as part of an annual report to Congress detailing the Education Department’s progress on implementing IDEA.

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The agency said that 95% of students served under IDEA spent at least part of their day in mainstream classrooms during the 2017-2018 school year. And, a majority — 64% — were in inclusive classes at least 80% of the time.

The largest portion of special education students in 2018 had a diagnosis of specific learning disability followed by speech or language impairment, other health impairment, autism, intellectual disability and emotional disturbance.

Notably, the percentage of students with autism doubled between 2009 and 2018, the Education Department reported, with increases most pronounced among those over age 12.

Meanwhile, an increasing number of students with disabilities are graduating with a regular high school diploma, according to the report. For the 2017-2018 school year, 72.7% graduated compared to just 60.6 percent in 2008-2009. Over the same time period, the number of students served under IDEA who dropped out declined from 22.4% to 16%.

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