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Just the Facts! Special Needs Statistics

July 19, 2010

2013 Special Needs Stats from TheInclusiveChurchdotcom

Some of the statistics below are outdated as this post originated in 2010.  For current statistics and a PDF of the infographic above, see the June 2013 post: Statistics for Children with Special Needs (Updated for 2013)

In preparation for a talk I did in 2010, I collected statistics related to the prevalence of children with special needs.  Obviously I did not include many relevant diagnoses.  But I do think these statistics do a good job expanding our idea of children who have special needs.  These numbers speak to the broader impact children’s ministries can have on children (even those we consider “typical”) by enhancing the lesson plan to appeal to all learning styles and providing effective behavior management training for all kidmin volunteers. (Some stats have been updated as of 2012.)

  • 7% of children ages 3 – 17 have ADHD.  11% of boys, 4% of girls (1)
  • 8% of children ages 3 – 17 have a learning disability.  10% boys, 6% girls (1)
  • 10% of children have an anxiety disorder. (2)
  • 13% of children ages 13 – 17 have a developmental disability (ranging from mild disabilities such as speech and language impairments to serious developmental disabilities, such as intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, and autism). (3)
  • 41% of children with a developmental disability have multiple disabilities (4)
  • 17% of Americans will experience a communication disorder at some point in their life, which includes sensing, interpreting and responding (i.e. auditory processing disorder).  (5)
  • 1 in 50 children have an autism spectrum disorder.  1/31 boys. (6)
  • 37.5% of individuals who receive an ASD diagnosis will go on to lose that diagnosis. (7)
  • 41% of people with an autism spectrum disorder have an intellectual disability (which means that 59% do not necessarily have an intellectual disability). (3)
  • 19% of Americans are classified as a person with a disability, which equals the population of the states of FL and CA combined.   Both the number and percentage of Americans with a disability has risen in recent years.  (8)

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(1) (page 5)





(6)   updated March 2013



Amy Fenton Lee

From → About, Miscellaneous

  1. Maybe it’s just because I am a numbers person, but I find these statistics absolutely fascinating. Why do you suppose the percentage of boys with ADHD is so much higher than that of girls? Is it possible, and I’m just throwing this out there for discussion, that because the diagnosis of ADHD is so subjective that some of the “symptoms” of ADHD are actually just tendencies that boys more frequently exhibit? If so, where is the line between average boy-type behavior and ADHD? If there is some medical explanation as to why the diagnosis is so much higher in boys, I would be interested in hearing about that too.

    Thanks Amy for posting this stuff. Hopefully it will spark some discussion. I know I already learned something.

  2. Thanks Wayne. I do know that getting the ADHD diagnosis is fairly involved and has become harder to officially receive in some school districts.

    One statistic that I didn’t include was that 5% of children have Sensory Processing Disorder (also known as sensory integration disorder). Lucy Jane Miller gives this stat in her book “Sensational Kids”. Because I’m not sure of the stat’s original source, I didn’t give it above. But I think SPD is VERY common, often mistaken for ADHD and can be the culprit behind perceived behavior “problems” in a children’s ministry environment. Many behavior issues are really sensory needs that can be worked through quite easily.

  3. That’s fascinating. Thanks for the information. I have always wondered about those statistics and what the reason was behind them. So, if I understand right, it’s not that there are actually more boys with the issue, just that the girls tend to go undiagnosed?

    If you don’t mind one more question, how do you clinically distinguish between the normal absentminded fidgety-ness of boys and ADHD? Where is the line?

  4. Amy,
    We see children with Early Onset Bipolar Disorder (2.6% of the population) and Oppositional Defiance Disorder (5-15% of the population) in addition to the disorders that you mentioned in your article. Often they are co-morbid with ADHD and/or depression.

  5. Tonya – Thanks for adding this. I had no idea this post would generate so much interest. We’ve had a tremendous number of hits since this post went up 48 hours ago. Note to self: More statistics!

  6. Amy, Let me know if you need any additional stats as I have them for the manual just wrote. There are many disorders that are “invisible” that people are not aware how they affect children and youth.

  7. Wayne, There is an increased number of boys with ADHD and ASD than girls because girls have different symptoms and girls have more of a pleasing temperament to the adults they are around. Also, when children are tested properly 75% of children with ADHD would not qualify for that diagnosis instead they would qualify for SPD. I took the information off of a poster in my children’s OT office.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. It’s Not Uncommon to Have “Special Needs” « Julie’s Journal
  2. The Children’s Ministry Blog Patrol (July 2010) | Dad in the Middle
  3. The Premise of “The Inclusive Church” Blog « The Inclusive Church
  4. Getting Leadership On Board – The Details « The Inclusive Church
  5. Top 10 Posts & Blog Update « The Inclusive Church
  6. 4 Steps for Taking your Special Needs Child to New Church
  7. Developing a Special Needs Ministry’s Goals & Mission « The Inclusive Church
  8. Implementing a Reward System for Children with Special Needs « The Inclusive Church
  9. Special Needs: Difference vs. Deficiency « The Inclusive Church
  10. 5 Things to Know about the Mother of a Child Diagnosed with Autism – Part 2 « The Inclusive Church
  11. Happy 1st Anniversary The Inclusive Church Blog! (And Top 10 Posts) « The Inclusive Church
  12. Special Needs: Difference vs. Deficiency « Ministerio Infantil ArcoIris
  13. Special Needs Trusts Protect Massachusetts Families « Musings of a Massachusetts Estate Lawyer
  14. Checklist for Special Needs Children's Ministry
  15. Special Needs at Church: Difference vs. Deficiency »
  16. Top 10 Posts for the Last Year « The Inclusive Church
  17. A Special Rank | The Thunder Project

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